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Vendors Must Steer a Path to Mass Adoption

Solution providers need to gain broad usage of RFID in one industry and then adapt vertical applications to other sectors.
By Mark Roberti
Jun 01, 2012—Previously in this section, we have written about Geoffrey Moore's technology adoption life cycle and how it applies to radio frequency identification. Specifically, we have looked at how close the RFID industry is to meeting the criteria he says are essential for a technology to achieve mass adoption: a global standard, a problem no other technology solves, a whole product, a "gorilla" (dominant provider) and a critical mass of end users.

RFID technology has matured and is being adopted by many companies in myriad industries. But in an interview for the special 10th anniversary edition of this magazine (see The Key to RFID Adoption)), Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, raises the possibility that RFID might never go mainstream—that it could remain forever in what he calls the "bowling-alley" phase of the technology adoption life cycle. There is a chasm between early adopters of a new technology and the majority of companies that adopt later, once the technology has gone mainstream, Moore says. When a technology crosses that chasm by proving its benefits, it enters the bowling alley.

"The bowling alley represents that part of the technology adoption life cycle in which your product gains acceptance from companies within the mainstream market but has yet to achieve general, widespread adoption," Moore writes. "The goal of bowling- alley marketing is to keep moving forward toward the tornado [mass adoption], to progress from niche to niche, developing momentum. Each niche is like a bowling pin, something that can be knocked over in itself, but can also help knock over one or more additional pins."

Is it possible that RFID will remain in the bowling alley? Yes. "For many customers, there is still plenty of life left in the old paradigm [technology] you are displacing," Moore writes. "They might see the attraction of the new paradigm you are offering, but they have no compelling reason to move. Since infrastructure changes of any kind always entail hidden consequences, this part of the market instinctively holds back."
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