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Seven Strategies to Fund RFID Projects

Creative thinking can help you deploy a radio frequency identification system—without breaking the bank.
By John Edwards
Aug 01, 2010—Darren Brookes, operations director of Sovereign Security, a security service in Nottingham, England, wanted to develop a radio frequency identification system that could pinpoint the location of guards patrolling a university campus, business site, recreation center or other public area to meet client and regulatory needs. "If one of my officers doesn't patrol at the right time, or arrives late onto a site, or doesn't do a particular task he's been asked to do, the client would be able to see that," Brookes says.

But while the idea sounded great, money was tight. Facing the challenge of creating an important business-enhancing service without a substantial budget, Brookes began working on an alternate funding strategy. After some basic research—and discussing the situation with RFID systems developer Sero Solutions of Birmingham, England, and UEAPME, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises—Brookes discovered a government program that would cover up to 50 percent of the project's cost. The result? Sovereign's RFID system is scheduled for deployment next year.

Photo: iStockphoto
Like many other organizations interested in deploying RFID in a uniquely challenging economic environment, Brookes decided to think creatively to find a way to finance a vital system at a fraction of its projected cost. Looking to cut sharp deals on RFID equipment, software and services, companies worldwide are investigating government grants, technology leasing, business partnerships and other strategies designed to get their RFID projects off the ground without breaking the bank. "It's a time when businesses are really being forced into thinking smarter," says Russ Klein, an RFID industry analyst at Aberdeen Group, a Boston-based technology research firm.

1. Seek Government Help
For Sovereign, government help meant the difference between having a state-of-the-art RFID tracking system and continuing to use a far more basic system that required site visits to retrieve a portable device for desktop syncing. The company is hardly the only business in Britain, or Europe, to have received RFID development assistance from a government organization. In fact, over the past several years, the European Union (EU), through the European Commission (EC), has funded scores of RFID projects across diverse industries.

In Sovereign's case, the funding source was an EC program, RFID-ROI-SME, designed to promote RFID's use among small and midsize businesses. "The EC recognized that RFID technology has great potential, especially for small and medium enterprises, and that not enough of these enterprises were actually using this technology even though they could have an economic benefit," says Sebastiano Toffaletti, UEAPME's senior project manager. "The co-funding that comes from the EC is equal to 50 percent of the real expenses of the project, which means all the [recipients] involved in the project are financing out of [their] pockets the remaining 50 percent."
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