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How to Conduct a Successful Proof-of-Concept

This important test will help you determine how best to use RFID to solve your problems.
By Barb Freda
Feb 21, 2016

You've read stories about how many companies in your industry are using radio frequency identification to improve operations, cut costs and achieve other benefits. Now, you're wondering if it's time for your firm to adopt RFID to address your business problems.

Wondering won't answer that question. You must conduct a proof of concept (POC) to determine whether RFID can address your issues in your workplace. In the past, POCs were often conducted in laboratories to test the technology. But these days, most POCs are conducted at the location where the RFID system will eventually be deployed, whether it's a factory, hospital, office, store, warehouse or other environment.

"Proof of concept is a way to demonstrate the usefulness of RFID in a particular environment," says Bill Hardgrave, dean of Auburn University's Raymond J. Harbert College of Business and founder of the RFID Lab. "A lot of early RFID efforts with proof of concept were about proving the concept of the technology, and that was an important step. We do not have to do that anymore. The technology works. The question becomes 'How well does it work to solve my problems in my environment?', and those are the tests we see now."

A proof of concept must focus on the problems, identify the pain points, and determine how well the program works to solve those problems, Hardgrave says. He suggests clients run the proof on a small scale at first. Take retailers, for example. "It's important to take that first store or two to help set the road map for a pilot, which is an expanded proof of concept," he explains. "Use what you learned and see if this will scale to 10 or 12 stores."

Some companies see other firms in their industry that are benefitting from RFID and want to deploy the technology without first conducting a POC. That's not a smart approach, experts say. "Companies that do not do a proof of concept take a calculated risk," says Anthony Palermo, RFID Academia's founder and director.

How much does a POC cost? That depends on the size and scope of the project. RFID systems integrators say an average price is between $25,000 and $50,000. There are too many variables to name a price, according to Steve Schattmaier, Tyco Retail Solutions' director of professional services. "It's not a one-size-fits-all situation," he explains. "Some of the variables are the cost of the tags, the item count [the number of items that will be tracked], and the hardware and software."

Another factor that affects the cost of a POC is the industry, Palermo says. "The pharma industry, for example, has more standards and restrictions, which make costs go up," he states.

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