My Wall Street Journal Op-Ed on RFID

By Mark Roberti

The fact that a major newspaper has published an opinion piece suggests the tide has shifted in RFID's direction.

During the past few years, I have sent half a dozen articles about radio frequency identification technology to the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, each highlighting positive aspects of the technology relative to topics in the news. To my frustration, none were published—until now.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published my op-ed, titled "How Tiny Wireless Tech Makes Workers More Productive." The article addressed the current debate over whether digital technologies have reached their limit in terms of boosting productivity. I am of the view, which I stated in the article, that RFID will break down the wall between the digital and physical worlds and enable computers to more efficiently control physical assets, bringing new efficiencies.

To support my thesis, I showed how Macy's, Delta Air Lines and American Woodmark are achieving big benefits from RFID. Knowledge of and confidence in the technology among editors has clearly reached a point—at least at the prestigious Wall Street Journal—at which the paper was comfortable publishing an article that makes some very bold claims about what the technology can do.

I provided detailed documentation for each example of productivity gains cited in the article. I provided links to research reports released by Auburn University's RFID Lab, as well as the email addresses of those leading the RFID efforts at Macy's, Delta and American Woodmark. Still, I did those same things in the past and the articles I submitted to the Times and Journal were not chosen for publication.

Why the change? A big reason, I believe, is that the editors are reading positive news about RFID. The Journal ran a great article about how Johnson Controls uses RFID to track containers (see Johnson Controls Unravels Riddle of Missing Crates). Each story published gives other editors greater confidence in the technology to accept other articles, and so I expect the positive news about RFID will continue. This, in turn, will encourage more companies to take a look at RFID, which was my goal in writing the WSJ op-ed in the first place.

There are, of course, plenty of people who disagree with my thesis that RFID will bring positive gains to business, or who see nefarious intent behind the technology's use. A few folks posted some negative comments in response to my article. I hope those who believe in RFID, as I do, will chime in. More voices highlighting the benefits can only be a good thing.

I think it's clear that perceptions of RFID have changed, which will stimulate more positive news that will increase adoption rates. That, in turn, will lead to more news stories, and a greater number of companies using the technology, thereby creating a virtuous cycle. The result, I believe, will be rising productivity rates, higher wages and more profits during the coming years.

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.