A Shot in the Arm

The success of RFID Journal LIVE! 2007 has given the RFID industry a much-needed boost.
Published: May 9, 2007

A pall has been cast over the radio frequency identification industry for the past six or eight months. Many RFID events have attracted far fewer attendees than anticipated, and news reports have indicated that Wal-Mart and other leading early adopters were slowing their rollouts. What’s more, vendors have been concerned that interest in their products and services were slowing.

All of that ended last week.

Our sponsors and exhibitors where surprised and thrilled by the number of end users that attended last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! 2007 in Orlando. With other events seeing a decline of 30 to 50 percent in attendance, they were expecting a light turnout at our event as well. What they discovered, instead, was large numbers of end users with projects underway or clear plans to launch RFID projects. Here is just some of the feedback we received from exhibitors:

“Compared to other shows, the traffic here is much better. There are more end users, and there’s a lot less solicitation and vendor-on-vendor preying than we have seen at other shows.”—Kent Swart, product manager, Automated Labeling, Diagraph (an ITW Co.)

“The show is fantastic. The number of attendees is very high, and there’s a lot of vibrancy in the conference itself. I am especially impressed with the number of end users coming through the exhibit hall and looking at RFID in doing deployments, starting pilots and volume ramps, which is encouraging for the industry.”—Jeffrey White, CEO, RCD Technology

“It was an excellent event for us in every respect…This show brought us together with a number of great companies during what we’re finding to be a key point in market adoption, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s show.”—John Beans, VP marketing, Blue Vector

“The audience is surprisingly diverse. The heads of various departments have come up to talk to me about their government needs: Agriculture, Transportation, Navy, Air Force, Marines—they are all represented well here, and are looking for active technologies.”—Mark Colborn, director/federal accounts, Identec Solutions

“We are loving the show this year. We have a 10-by-20 booth right at the front door, and people are coming in alive, interested and educated. They know what they are looking for, and they are here for a purpose.”—W. Judson Vaughn, marketing manager, Ekahau

Why did our event attract so many end-user attendees when others have failed to do so? I believe it’s our editorial approach to events. We don’t simply do a call for papers and then pick from those submitted. Top executives of Wal-Mart and other leading end-user companies don’t submit papers. We survey our readers, find out what they want to learn at an event and then recruit the speakers who can objectively provide that information.

This year, we had an incredible line-up of end-user case studies. Many speakers provided real insights into how they are using RFID today to drive value, and leading early adopters told the audience they are committed to adopting RFID. “We’re not backing off or slowing down,” said Rollin Ford, Wal-Mart’s CIO.

The result of this great program was a satisfied audience. Here’s some more feedback we received:

“The event was fantastic. I learned a lot.”—William White, tactical communications, group supervisor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

“It has been a fantastic opportunity to gain insights into RFID and how it’s used in the workplace—and, most importantly, to network with other companies and integrators. We’ll go home and take this to our managers and be able to explore further RFID opportunities.”—Wayne Ellison, program manager, Woolworths Limited, Australia

“A great event to learn more about RFID for someone who knew not much of anything about the technology.”—Mark E. Haag, manager, systems operations, Delta Technology

I’m thrilled that our exhibitors and attendees are so happy, but what’s important for the industry is that vendors now understand there is no fall-off in interest regarding RFID. End users are more knowledgeable and have specific business problems they want to use RFID to solve, and those new to RFID are gaining an objective understanding of what RFID can and cannot do.

The vendor community has developed an extraordinary array of products to help end users solve those problems, and many were on display in the exhibit hall. I even got to ride around on a Segway equipped with a mobile reader from Motorola (formerly Symbol Technologies). The idea is a simple one: You can take inventory just by rolling past tagged assets.

So doom and gloom is being replaced by healthy realism, and LIVE! 2007 has given the industry a much-needed shot in the arm. Now everyone can stop agonizing over how many distribution centers Wal-Mart has RFID-enabled, or how quickly the DOD is rolling out RFID, and begin focusing on what’s really happening in end-user companies around the world. I look forward to an exciting year ahead, with great new projects and great new products.