Sorry, But RFID Is Gaining Traction

The real barometer of adoption is not whether Wal-Mart is in five distribution centers instead of a dozen.
Published: June 27, 2007

Back in February, the Wall Street Journal published a now infamous article—infamous, at least, in the radio frequency identification industry—claiming Wal-Mart‘s RFID effort was “fizzling” (see Wal-Mart, Suppliers Affirm RFID Benefits, Don’t Let Misconceptions of RFID Become Reality and Understanding the Wal-Mart Reality).

The Journal‘s supposed evidence: Wal-Mart had said, upon launching its RFID initiative, that it would be in 12 distribution centers by that point, yet it was only in five. A lot of journalists picked up on this blatantly idiotic line of thinking—companies do change their technology rollout plans, after all—and a cacophony of experts gleefully predicted the demise of RFID.

Of course, RFID adoption is not fizzling—not at all. There’s a lot going on, though there aren’t enough people talking about it (at least, from my point of view). Still, every now and then, we get a significant announcement. One such announcement occurred this week, when Metro announced plans to install Reva Systems‘ Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) in 200 distribution and retail facilities (see Metro Rolling Out Reva’s Reader Network Appliance).

This news is significant for the RFID industry, because it shows Metro rolling out RFID in a serious way. Each TAP device controls numerous readers within a single facility; if Metro were simply installing one or two readers in these facilities, it wouldn’t need such a network infrastructure to support the rollout.

Two hundred locations may not be a huge number, but it’s a pretty good start. As one of the largest retailers in the world, Metro will, no doubt, continue to build out its infrastructure as it learns from the initial deployment. It will be interesting to see if those who said RFID wasn’t gaining traction change their tune, or if they continue to look for signs to support their preconceived notions.