Perception Lags Reality

By Mark Roberti

What many business executives think about RFID today was true a few years ago, but is no longer valid.


I am often asked to speak to associations regarding radio frequency identification. I try to do this whenever I can, because I believe most companies, government agencies and organizations can benefit from employing the technology. It’s also good for our industry. This week, I will speak at a meeting of the New England Society of Clinical Engineering (NESCE) about RFID-based real-time location systems (RTLS).

This is not just an opportunity for attendees to learn about RFID—it’s also a chance for me to learn what potential end users think about the technology, what might be preventing them from deploying a solution and so forth.

I often hear views from people that are out of date. They think ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags don’t work at all in the presence of water and metal, when, in fact, tags have been developed that can work well around those materials. They think Wal-Mart Stores has abandoned its RFID efforts, when, in fact, the company will tag and track at least 250 million clothing items this year. And they think there are no solutions for their industry when, in fact, vendors have developed many industry-specific applications.

It’s no surprise that perception lags reality. This is usually the case with new technologies. In the beginning, there is a lot of hype, and perception is way out in front of reality. Remember all those articles claiming RFID was about to replace the bar code? When reality fails to live up to hype, there’s only an occasional negative story about that technology’s weaknesses, so folks forget about the technology, believing it doesn’t work. Meanwhile, vendors refine and improve the technology, and work with visionary end users to develop solutions that can actually be used by businesses.

That’s been happening with RFID for the past few years, and we’re now seeing some terrific technology advancements. It’s an ongoing process. Just look at the 10 finalists for our annual Best in Show RFID Journal Award, to be given to the best new product exhibited at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011, being held on Apr. 12-14, in Orlando, Fla. (see Finalists Unveiled for the Fifth Annual RFID Journal Awards).

The finalists include Xerafy, which has introduced its iN family of UHF RFID tags, to be embedded in metal assets without sacrificing read performance (see RFID News Roundup: Xerafy Unveils UHF RFID Tags for Europe); Tageos, which will exhibit an “inlay-less” RFID label that eliminates the need for a plastic substrate, so RFID labels are cheaper to produce and more environmentally friendly; and Intelleflex, which will show off multi-protocol battery-assisted tags and readers, with a read range of more than 300 feet.

The advances are not just in regard to tags. Franwell will display a new version of its wearable RFID reader, the RFID Sleeve WR100-1. Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI) will exhibit its RFID ME hardware and software, which can turn any laptop into an interrogator, with a variety of software applications. And Intelligent InSites was chosen as a finalist for its InSites Enterprise Visibility Platform, which aggregates real-time location and sensory data through standardized Web-based interfaces, and also serves as a data-exchange hub for all InSites-enabled applications and devices.

Moreover, there are complete solutions that solve specific business problems. For hospitality firms, which face the challenge of making sure bartenders don’t give away free drinks, Identec Solutions will exhibit its Beverage Metrics Complete Solution, a combined hardware and software solution that monitors beverage service in multiple applications (see Beverage Metrics Serves Up Drink-Management Solution). And Biolog-ID will exhibit a complete system for using RFID to track blood bags.

Who’s taking advantage of all these technology developments? The finalists for our end-user awards show how companies are truly benefiting from RFID today. I’ll write more about them next week. In the meantime, I encourage you to come to LIVE! 2011 to view the advances in hardware, software and complete solutions that can improve the way your company does business. You can register here for our annual conference and exhibition; I look forward to seeing you there.

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.