Apr 02, 2012When I first began publishing RFID Journal 10 years ago, there was little innovation going on at the time. Companies such as Texas Instruments and Philips Semiconductors (now NXP Semiconductors) had small but successful units selling high-frequency (HF) tags for a variety of applications, including automobile immobilizers and access control. Then, Wal-Mart announced plans to use the technology within its supply chain, triggering a wave of innovation.
Venture capitalists came into the market to fund startups. Companies began developing different types of tags, readers and software, much of it designed to help businesses track pallets and cases within the global retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) supply chain. When the value turned out not to be that great for CPG suppliers, and Wal-Mart shifted gears, many considered the radio frequency identification industry all but dead.
As it turns out, they could not have been more wrong. While most of the venture capital money went away, RFID solutions providers continued investing in improving their products, and began to tailor goods to specific applications. We saw a wave of innovation in tags and, to some extent, readers. There are ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) interrogators for embedding in other products (such as cabinets), handheld units, mobile readers that can be mounted on cards or forklifts, and a variety of fixed readers. There has also been a great deal of innovation in active systems. There are many different types—433 MHz, 2.45 GHz, ultra-wideband (UWB), real-time location systems (RTLS), ZigBee and so forth.
However, there has been a good deal less innovation in the software field. A lot of RFID software is generic—it can be utilized to track everything from IT assets to apparel. But end users don't want generic applications. They want software that turns RFID data into actionable information.
I think we are now beginning to see solutions tailored to specific industries—apparel retail, oil and gas, manufacturing, and so on—as well as to particular applications, such as IT asset tracking. While strolling the exhibit hall at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition—being held this week in Orlando, Fla.—I plan to keep an eye on how much software is being tailored to solve end users' business problems.
I believe this is important, because software is critical to employing RFID to create business value. End users would love to have something that is easy to deploy, plugs into existing back-end systems and can take data from RFID hardware and make it useful to their enterprise. If we get more and better solutions tailored to end users' needs, we will see adoption grow quickly.
Hardware innovators have been out in front of software providers. For some of the innovations that will be on display at LIVE! 2012, see New RFID Solutions for Specific Business Needs, The Electronics Industry Discovers RFID—At Last and RFID News Roundup. I'll let you know, in a future column, if the software guys are catching up.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.