Navigating Troubled Waters

By Mark Roberti

RFID is helping companies worldwide prepare for smoother sailing ahead.

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As I write this note, the world is marking the fourth anniversary of the collapse of financial services firm Lehman Brothers, which triggered a global financial crisis. Capital markets seized up. Lending stopped. The world teetered on the brink of a second Great Depression.

While the fast response of governments, central banks and businesses averted the worst-case scenario, the global economy still hasn’t recovered from the events of four years ago. The U.S. economy creeps along with meager growth. Europe struggles with the financial fallout in Greece, Spain, Italy and other countries.

Photo: Tom Hurst and RFID Journal

Despite the uncertainty, businesses across Europe continue to deploy radio frequency identification technologies to improve the way they do business, reports contributing writer John Edwards in this issue’s cover story (see Europe Is Rolling Out RFID). Frost & Sullivan, a technology research firm, estimates the European RFID market hovered at around $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in 2011 and will likely surge to $3.7 billion to $4 billion by 2018.

RFID continues to attract new adopters because European businesses are starting to view the technology as an immediately available solution rather than as a promising technology, says Michael Liard, RFID analysis director at VDC Research.

Several years ago, European governments subsidized a wide variety of RFID projects. Funding has dried up due to the current euro crisis, but those investments are paying off. How so? Companies such as Gerry Weber International learned about the value of RFID from them and are now investing their own funds to deploy the technology more broadly. Today, many European aerospace and automotive companies, construction and energy firms, manufacturers, and logistics and transportation businesses have completed RFID pilots and are rolling out the technology to increase productivity and reduce costs.

Technology improvements also are making it easier for manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere to use RFID technology to track raw materials, work-in-process and finished goods inventory (see Manufacturing Value). New European standards for tracking returnable transport items will allow companies to achieve internal and supply-chain benefits (see Radio Europe: Managing RTIs).

Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology is inspiring many businesses to develop creative applications. In France, for example, supermarket chain Groupe Casino is working on a project that uses NFC technology to help visually impaired people shop safely and efficiently. NFC also is ushering in a new age of gaming, bridging the line between physical and virtual play (see NFC Technology Brings New Life to Games).

I’m pleased that Bill Hardgrave will be writing a regular column for RFID Journal magazine, beginning with this issue (see Tuned In: Tracking Your Competitors). He will address RFID adoption and business-case issues, and he welcomes your questions.

It’s not clear when the global economy will pick up or the euro crisis will be resolved. But one thing is clear: RFID technology is helping companies in Europe and around the world navigate the troubled waters and prepare for smoother sailing ahead.

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.