Cleaning Up RFID’s Image

Some of our readers agreed with my view that the RFID industry needs to promise less, deliver more and educate end users about how systems can provide benefits, without being perfect.
Published: October 27, 2009

My recent editorial suggesting ways in which vendors could improve the reputation of radio frequency identification (see RFID Is Not a Dirty Word) prompted a few readers to e-mail me. Here’s a typical response, from an academic who works with end users:

“Just read your editorial and wanted to give it two thumbs up. Vendors often promise the moon and stars, but most companies have learned the hard way that specifications marketed are completely different from performance achieved in real life. And even if the performance is as advertised, so what? If you can’t quantify business benefits, no CFO worth his or her weight in salt would sign off on a ‘cool technology’ project if it doesn’t deliver value. And at that point, you are dealing with issues that go way beyond just RFID, such as system design, performance and human behavior within the organization. Kudos for coming out and stating the obvious that often gets overlooked!”

One person who works for a manufacturing company picked up on my comment that we need to educate people that RFID doesn’t need to be perfect to deliver value. “I could not agree more [with your editorial],” he wrote. “On the issue of read rates, we just did an inventory assessment of an organization with $120 million in inventory, and they had an accuracy of 53 percent (they do not use bar codes or RFID). When people want 100 percent read rates, they should look at their ‘current state.’ They might be shocked at the results, and they might agree that RFID can deliver far better than what they currently achieve.”

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 or click here.