Getting Beyond Compliance

By Mark Roberti

There are so many ways RFID technologies can help companies improve the way they do business that those focused on compliance alone are missing huge opportunities.


I recently received an e-mail from a woman at a major consumer products goods company asking how she could get into the Sam’s Club supplier meeting being held this week in conjunction with RFID Journal LIVE! 2008. I explained what she needed to do, and she asked if she should also attend the EPC Compliance & Benefits Training session, which we are hosting with EPCglobal North America. “That’s the only reason I’m going to your show,” she said, “to get compliant.”

Those words hurt. We’ve been working for more than a year to put together the greatest collection of end users and experts in the conference program, as well as attract the highest quality vendors with the best solutions and build the most sophisticated demos—and all she wants to know is how to slap RFID tags on cases. I wanted to cry.

Now, it’s not this woman’s fault. Her employer is sending her to the event with the wrong mission. Yes, her company needs to comply with Sam’s Club’s requirement, but it should have said: “Go to RFID Journal LIVE!, find out how to get compliant and see how we can use this technology to drive business benefits.”

I don’t care what line of business you’re in, if you go to the event and pay even a little attention, you’ll find many great ideas for using RFID to cut costs and improve the way you do business. I’ve heard complaints that you can’t get any benefit from tagging for Wal-Mart, but Hampton Products will explain how it’s increasing sales by tracking in-store promotions. Spar Group will discuss how to increase retail profits by improving in-store labor efficiency. And Kimberly-Clark will reveal how passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags can improve yard management.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some speakers will talk about using high-frequency tags to track files, pharmaceutical drugs and clothing, while others will discuss using active systems to track large assets, reusable containers, vehicles and tools. It will be almost impossible to walk out of the event, in fact, without gaining a few ideas for projects that could save your company tens of thousands of dollars.

I know, the skeptics will say I’m blowing smoke, but in my view, the value of RFID in certain applications is so clear that those who don’t see it clearly don’t want to see it. These are probably the same people who didn’t recognize the value of the Internet until they looked like fools for saying so.

While I’m frustrated by the compliance-only crowd, I take heart nonetheless that many of the more than 3,000 people who will be in Las Vegas this week for RFID Journal LIVE! represent companies that understand the value RFID can deliver today. They’ll be attending sessions and meeting vendors so they can learn how to use RFID technologies in new ways to improve the way their company does business.

RFID is an enabling technology, and there are some very clear applications it enables—such as the ability to better track assets, tools, work-in-process and promotional displays. But part of the technology’s beauty is that innovative companies can conjure up new applications. The winner of this year’s Most Innovative Use of RFID Award developed smart flooring that can track when carpet has been cleaned—and one day could guide people to the correct office, or even an to an emergency exit. Part of the beauty of events like LIVE! is that they get you thinking—so keep an open mind and think beyond compliance.

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.