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Focus of RFID Shifts

Companies are now looking at RFID as a technology that can solve internal problems, rather than as a way to share data across the supply chain.
By Mark Roberti
Jun 01, 2010—Each year, RFID vendors, users, researchers, academics, and others gather at RFID Journal LIVE! to conduct business, form partnerships, network and take soundings on the state of the radio frequency identification technology industry. As such, the event is a barometer of industry progress and the technology's potential to improve the way companies do business. And each year, the event takes on a slightly different tone and focus.

In 2009, the industry gathered during the depths of the recession, when companies were putting RFID projects on hold to conserve cash. Still, about 2,500 people attended the event, including a number of end users interested in deploying the technology.

More than half of all end users (53 percent) said their primary reason for attending RFID Journal LIVE! 2010 was to meet vendors that could solve their business problem.

When the RFID community gathered in Orlando, Fla., this April, the economy had improved—or at least stopped slipping—and the mood was a little brighter. We didn't need quite as big an exhibit hall as in previous years—several small vendors had gone under, and some large companies took smaller booths to stay within tighter marketing budgets—but there were more paid attendees, perhaps due to a growing interest in using RFID to cut costs and improve efficiencies, relaxed travel budgets or both.

The makeup of attendees was also different. In the past, people representing consumer packaged goods companies accounted for 5 percent to 9 percent of attendees. This year, they accounted for just 1 percent. This reflects a shift away from the original emphasis on using Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology to improve the retail-CPG supply chain toward using all kinds of RFID technologies to achieve internal benefits.

Manufacturers continued to make up the largest portion of attendees (13 percent), but there was an increase in people from the aerospace sector (5 percent, up from 2 percent last year), health care (7 percent, up from 1 percent), and military and defense (9 percent, up from 4 percent). As in the past, more than half the attendees were from companies with 1,000 employees or more.

Many attendees were focused on finding asset-tracking solutions, and more were interested in deploying RFID across their enterprises—to track assets, people and products. In a post-event survey, more than half of all end users (53 percent) said their primary reason for attending the event was to meet vendors that could solve their business problem, compared with 37 percent who came to hear how others in their industry are using RFID. Eighty-four percent said they plan to purchase technology from exhibitors they met.
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