Lower the Barriers to Adoption

By Mark Roberti

The RFID industry needs to do more to make it possible for companies to test RFID systems or use the technology for small applications.


I received a call last week from a gentleman who works for a retail chain in the U.S. Midwest, who said he wanted to use radio frequency identification technology to track an item that is often stolen and out of stock. He needed a special tag developed for that item and wanted to buy only a few thousand of them. His plan was to conduct a small pilot on his own initiative, and to determine if he could get his company to fund a larger pilot and then perhaps a rollout.

This person called me because the RFID tag providers he contacted all insisted that he purchase fairly large volumes, but he could not justify the expense since he was funding the project out of his own operational budget. He wanted to know if any firms produce tags in volumes small enough for his project. I gave him the names of a few companies that I thought might be able to help him.

I often receive calls from businesses looking to purchase a few hundred tags, a handheld reader and a piece of software that would allow them to capture tag reads as a flat file that could be imported into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. These calls frustrate me. RFID solution providers complain all the time that not enough companies are adopting the technology—but there are firms that want to adopt. It’s just that the barrier to do so is set too high.

I have to tell each person who calls that I am unaware of any companies offering such a low-cost solution. And when I have suggested to businesses that they offer one, they tell me they don’t want to because it would require too much support service or reduce the demand for more sophisticated software.

The Netscape browser was introduced in November 1994. Within four years, there were 750,000 commercial sites on the Internet. That’s because anyone with a computer and a free browser could surf the Web (remember that term?). There was virtually no barrier to entry. Investors or potential investors could use the Internet before funding a venture.

RFID technologies are delivering a lot of benefit. But right now, the only companies adopting are those that have a problem significant enough for them to make a serious commitment to deploying a solution. I believe many other companies would adopt if we could lower the barrier to entry. If we could put a few hundred tags, a handheld reader and a simple piece of software that records reads in people’s hands for less than $2,000, more businesses would use RFID and sense the technology’s power. Those small applications would quickly grow into larger projects, and adoption would start to pick up.

The technology will take off, no matter what. It’s already starting to happen. But I think it would go much more quickly if companies would make it easier for end users to test RFID with a minimal investment.

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.