Bloggers Continue to Show Their Ignorance

The latest comes from T. D. Clark, who thinks he knows more about RFID than Dick Cantwell, VP at Procter & Gamble.
Published: June 18, 2007

Blogs are great. They give you a sense of power. You can write whatever you want, and you’re free to show off your brilliance—or your stupidity. Unfortunately, when it comes to writing about radio frequency identification, bloggers mainly put the latter on display.

Witness a recent blog entitled RFID ‘Evangelist’ Still Spinning Wheels, by T. D. Clark, who writes: “Having been around for decades but re-ignited a few years ago when a little company called Wal-Mart started bullying its suppliers with a flaky RFID ‘mandate,’ the unfounded hype surrounding RFID has done much more harm than good.”

This was posted on ThomasNet, a Web site that bills itself as “the most comprehensive source of new and timely product information in the industrial marketplace.” The blog was then picked up by other sites looking for free RFID content.

It’s an interesting, if ill-informed, point of view. Some might not like the mandates, though few suppliers complain today, and many tell me they are glad Wal-Mart forced them to adopt RFID. Moreover, Wal-Mart has a history of pushing the entire retail/CPG industry forward. Its bar-coding requirement in the early 1980s made that technology ubiquitous.

And at the recent U-Connect conference, where a panel was discussing data synchronization, Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, said this: “We owe Wal-Mart a debt of gratitude for forcing us to do data synchronization.” But I guess RFID is still just a series of wacky mandates Wal-Mart has “bullied” companies into adopting for its own good.

Clark sites, long a skeptic of RFID, as saying the technology seems like a great idea but “still struggles to find any type of traction out in the field.” Oh, really. So all those stories RFID Journal publishes week in and week out about companies achieving real benefits in a wide variety of industries, and in just about every country in the Americas, Europe and Asia, don’t count as traction? What does, then?

Clark then goes after Dick Cantwell, VP at Procter & Gamble, who has been a proponent of RFID. Speaking at the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy, an event about the entertainment supply chain, Cantwell said DVDs are excellent items for RFID tagging. “Not only are they time-sensitive products that need to be on the shelves when advertising breaks,” Cantwell explained, “but they are a high-value purchase that can afford the cost of a tag on display.”

Clark’s response? “That can afford the cost of a tag on display. Gimme a break. Just because it can be afforded doesn’t mean it makes sense. There are plenty of other established technologies out there that can offer the same type of ‘visibility’ that RFID offers. Why can’t ‘visionary’ execs like Dick Cantwell let this RFID thing go?”

It’s hard to know where to begin with that one. There are plenty of established technologies that can offer the same visibility as RFID? Really? Name one. Does Clark actually think having an army of people with bar-code scanners picking up and scanning bar codes on each DVD every five minutes is a cost-effective way to ensure the right DVD is in the right slot when the customer comes in to buy it? Or maybe he would prefer to attach a cell phone to every DVD?

The fact is, RFID is delivering real value to companies today, as has been proven by the overwhelmingly positive response to RFID Journal LIVE! 2007 and other RFID Journal events. The biggest obstacle to adoption is convincing a broader audience that’s true. Why is it so difficult? Because companies are not willing to come out with hard numbers about the benefits, as they don’t want to give away a competitive advantage. And in the absence of hard data, morons like Clark have carte blanche to tell people there are no benefits, when it’s patently obvious that’s just not the case.