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My Pet Peeves

CDO Technologies' Robert Zielinski discusses the missteps some end users make when deploying RFID, and offers advice for how to avoid such errors.
By Barb Freda
Dec 23, 2016

Robert Zielinski is director of commercial marketing at CDO Technologies, a full-service systems-integration firm that uses radio frequency identification and other technologies to solve business problems in a number of industries. RFID Journal has published several case studies about companies that have deployed an RFID solution developed in collaboration with CDO (see Small Repair Business Streamlines Processes, Speed the Plow and RFID Speeds Up Roadway Repairs). When end users have a little bit of knowledge, Zielinski says, that can be a dangerous thing.

RFID Journal: Do you have a pet peeve—something you wish clients or potential clients understood about RFID?

Robert Zielinski
Robert Zielinski: One pet peeve I have is what I call the Hollywood effect—clients who have unrealistic expectations. The notion that I am going to sneak a computer chip into you so I can track you from outer space makes for a really good movie, but it's not realistic. Maybe the craziest call I got was from a plumbing company that wanted to be able to take a complete inventory of a van—a big metal panel van, full of metal parts—every time the van would go in or out a gate on the plumbing company property. They may have seen a demo of a shopping cart getting filled with groceries, with the cart charging for tagged items as a shopper went along, and then they equated the shopping cart with their metal vans, thinking they would then see the contents of each van on a computer screen. I had to explain you can't read through the metal vans and you probably don't want to put a 25-cent tag on a part that costs three cents.

RFID Journal: Do you have another pet peeve?

Zielinski: My other pet peeve, which actually shows the maturity of the technology, is that clients tend to self-diagnose and treat RFID as a commodity.

A majority of the time when folks have a concept about tracking technology, they know what they lose, they saw the technology work somewhere, and they describe what they want it to do. The good news is they expose the business problem right up front—I know what they are losing and that they need to keep track of it.

But then they self-diagnose, because they've learned a little bit about RFID and they have a little bit of knowledge. They know they need antennas, readers and tags. They go looking for the individual pieces themselves. They think, "I have my cell phone, which I know has an RFID reader. Then, if I put one antenna in each of four corners of the building, I just need tags." Unfortunately, they don't know what they don't know.

I need to tell them none of that will work. Sure, their cell phone has a reader, but it is an NFC reader, one of several types of readers out there. And I have to tell them an antenna in one corner of the warehouse likely won't see a small tag hundreds of feet away. And then I have to tell them that just slapping an RFID tag on something, when there are hundreds of varieties of tags, may not solve their problem.

Users see so many options available, but don't know they really cannot just part the job out. Sure, they can find a reader online that might be cheaper than the one suggested for their needs, but they are rarely comparing apples to apples.

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