Getting the Word Out That RFID Works

By Mark Roberti

Major companies in many industries want to share how they are deploying the technology across their entire operations.

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Last week, we announced the finalists for the 2014 RFID Journal Awards, which were introduced eight years ago to recognize excellence in the use of radio frequency identification (see Finalists Unveiled for Eighth Annual RFID Journal Awards). The size and scope of several deployments submitted impressed me—but what really struck me this year is that many companies sent in entries to get the word out that RFID works.

Bechtel, a finalist for Best RFID Implementation, is using RFID to manage materials for the construction of three mega-size industrial projects off the eastern cost of Australia. In response to the question “Why do you believe this entry deserves an RFID Journal Award?” Bechtel wrote: “Because of the adoption and full implementation of RFID in an industry [construction] that has historically been unreceptive to work process paradigm shifts involving the implementation and innovative automated solutions. The overall construction industry is several years behind the likes of automotive manufacturing and hospitals when it comes to widespread utilization of RFID technology. We believe spotlighting the Bechtel successes at Curtis Island will… pave the way for more use of RFID technology on future construction projects.”

BP, another finalist for Best RFID Implementation, had a similar message for the energy industry. The company is using RFID to track components for a massive North Sea oil rig from points around the world to their arrival for assembly at a plant in South Korea. On its entry form, BP stated: “This is the first time a major oil company has demonstrated that tracking… every piece of equipment from hundreds of vendors across the globe to delivery at the construction site, with integration of all the tracking data to all the project partners, is now possible.”

In fact, the submissions for Best RFID Implementation were so strong this year that for the first time, we have decided to name four finalists. Marks & Spencer (M&S) is nominated for its use of item-level RFID to improve on-shelf availability at all of its stores (see Marks & Spencer Rolls Out RFID to All Its Stores). The retailer expects to attach 400 million passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags to individual items this year. And Colcafé is nominated for an RFID solution that provides increased visibility—from raw materials through production and storage to shipping.

Skyview High School, a finalist in the Most Innovative Use of RFID category, also wanted to get the word out regarding the benefits of an RFID real-time location system (RTLS) to improve the safety of school children in the event of an emergency (see Idaho School Installs RTLS to Make Students Safer). Skyview’s entry form says, “Generating awareness about the positive new uses for RFID in schools is a new story that showcases the best that RFID can offer and what’s possible.”

The City of Dayton, Ohio, a finalist for Best Use of RFID to Enhance a Product or Service, is utilizing RFID to identify which utility companies have dug up and replaced asphalt in the city’s streets—basically, who is responsible for potholes, a serious hazard and one plaguing most U.S. cities. The City of Dayton entered its deployment to “bring greater visibility to an RFID solution every city could benefit from.”

Clearly, companies in myriad industries no longer regard RFID as a risky new technology, and are focused on the benefits RFID can deliver. Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain with 235 stores, is also a finalist in the Best Use of RFID category. The company is using RFID sensors to monitor all of its dairy products, fresh meats, seafood, juices, deli items, produce and frozen goods. The solution is delivering a return on investment for the firm, and is improving the quality of food it provides to its customers.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is tracking 11,000 assets via an active RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS), and the facility is currently only in year two of a five-year initiative consisting of more than 50 technology projects. Not all of the new projects are RFID-related, but the RTLS component alone will cover more than 4 million square feet and employ more than 21,000 RTLS RFID badges on equipment, personnel and patients.

RFID Journal will help these companies get the word out regarding the benefits of RFID. Bechtel’s Edward Koch and M&S’ Kim Philips and Richard Jenkins will be among the keynote speakers at RFID Journal LIVE! 2014, our 12th annual conference and exhibition, which will be held on Apr. 8-10, in Orlando, Fla. (see Bechtel Added to Keynote Lineup at RFID Journal LIVE! 2014). Several finalists were already booked to speak during the event’s tracks, and we have invited all of the finalists to present in award nominee sessions. We will feature the award-winning deployments in the May/June issue of RFID Journal‘s digital magazine, and we’ll also post profiles of the other impressive submissions on our website.

Throughout the past two years, I have been saying that RFID has reached a level of maturity at which it can be used enterprise-wide and in mission-critical applications. It’s nice to see the companies that use the technology saying the same thing. So, if you’ve been skeptical about what RFID can do for your business, now is the time to start looking at the technology more closely. Attend LIVE! 2014 and see what all the buzz is about.

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.