Five Reasons for Optimism

By Mark Roberti

2009 might have been the worst year ever for many companies, but there are reasons to believe next year will be better.


Whether you are an end user, a potential end user or a seller of radio frequency identification technology, chances are this was a tough year for your company. It was certainly the toughest year I’ve experienced in my eight years as CEO of RFID Journal. I had to make some very difficult decisions this past year. But as 2009 concludes, I find myself feeling optimistic about the future. Here are five reasons why:

Interest in RFID remains strong. Traffic to RFID Journal‘s Web site is a leading indicator of the RFID market. If traffic were to tail off, it would signal a decline in interest in the technology, and a shrinking of the market. That didn’t happen. Our traffic for 2009 will be up—slightly—from 2008. Companies have business problems, and they understand that RFID might be the solution; that’s encouraging.

End-user adoption continues apace. There were a lot of stories in the press about businesses cutting back on their RFID deployments, and there is no doubt that projects were put on hold and, in some cases, cancelled. But the reality is, RFID Journal ran five or six articles per week about strong end-user deployments. And in my experience, companies that begin using RFID usually expand their rollouts to cover additional applications. The pressure to lower costs will likely lead to a greater use of RFID and other labor-saving technologies.

RFID technology continues to improve. Strong interest is great, but if the technology doesn’t mature, no one will adopt it. One fear I had at the start of 2009 was that RFID technology companies would walk away from the market, or stop investing in new products altogether, causing the technology’s maturation to stagnate. While a few software companies shifted their focus away from RFID, and while some hardware firms went under, the vendor community remains strong, overall.

Motorola, for example, introduced a slick new fixed reader and a handy little handheld (see Motorola Announces Handheld Reader for Non-Industrial Uses). NXP Semiconductors launched new chips and revealed plans for further product enhancements (see NXP Shares Product Roadmap and Application Know-How). And Impinj launched a new reader chip and other products (Impinj Adds New Products, Agreements to Its Portfolio).

What this all means is that RFID is becoming cheaper and easier to deploy, and that’s good for end users.

New companies continue to investment in the RFID market. When I launched RFID Journal, I was aware of approximately 60 companies in the market. I’m now tracking more than 1,000 on a regular basis, and I discovered at least 200 new firms this year. In many cases, the businesses are from overseas. Just last week, I met with representatives from two of these companies, who traveled to my office for advice.

Global economic and geopolitical trends are moving in a positive direction. The reality is, the world no longer depends heavily on the United States to stimulate growth. The global economy is more diversified than ever, which means growth can come from anywhere—Brazil, China, the European Union, India and so forth. And countries continue to move toward having more open economies and more democratic governments, which means they can contribute to the global economy. My biggest fear, as the economic crisis unfolded last year, was that there would be a devastating trade war, but it appears cooler heads—somehow—prevailed.

I don’t think 2010 will be a great year for anyone, but I do believe it will be better than 2009. I think RFID vendors have been forced to get smarter about the way they market (the ones that don’t might not survive), just as end users have to get smarter about how they use technology to reduce costs and improve the way they do business.

I know I’ve been forced to be a better, smarter and more focused CEO. I learned a lot this year, because I was forced to. But I think RFID Journal will be healthier and more successful as a result, and better able to serve our customers’ needs in the long term.

So as the year ends, I want to thank all of our readers, advertisers, and event sponsors and exhibitors for their support. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous 2010.

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 or click here.