Networking at LIVE! Is an Additional Benefit

Retailers at a luncheon hosted by GS1 and the Auburn University RFID Lab seemed to truly value being able to connect with others with whom they don't compete.
Published: April 15, 2019

When we market RFID Journal LIVE! and our other events, we promote the agenda and the ability for attendees to hear case studies from end users explaining the benefits of radio frequency identification and how to deploy the technology successfully. We also tout the benefits of the exhibit hall, where attendees can meet with some 200 vendors from 26 countries and view their latest innovations. We’ve mentioned networking as a benefit, but never really made a big deal of it. I’m wondering if that was a mistake.

Each year for the past few years, GS1 and the Auburn University RFID Lab have hosted a private lunch for retailers and brand owners. I have attended when I wasn’t speaking or hosting some other events. This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to be there, and I was struck by how much the retailers valued the connections they made.

I can’t reveal which companies attended or what they said during the lunch, but it was clear to me that people valued meeting other retailers investing in RFID. Retailers are obviously reluctant to share information with competitors, but there were retailers from different regions and different segments—health and beauty, sporting good, apparel and so forth—and attendees felt comfortable discussing issues with each other.

In any industry, those using RFID technology share many of the same issues—how to get the most out of the technology, what mistakes to avoid and how to convince suppliers to tag at the source. It appeared to me, an impartial observer, that those in the room were hungry to learn from others who have deployed the technology. There was a palpable eagerness to learn and a deep understanding that RFID can be used in many different ways to generate value.

I noticed this among other attendees as well. I spoke with Rick Lewis of Delta, who has attended annually for the past few years. He told me, “You need to come and learn so you know what you don’t know.” There are speakers in other industries who share insights that can be critical to your application. It’s easy to say these benefits don’t matter. Then again, it’s easy to mess up a deployment or fail to get the most out of a project.

There are many companies that would like to save a few thousand dollars on travel because they think they can simply find a local systems integrator to deploy an RFID system, but they don’t realize the costs of a bungled solution would be far higher than the price of a flight and a hotel. Unfortunately, this lesson is sometimes an expensive one, and it is always learned too late.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.