Interesting question. I could probably write a book in response, but I will try to explain in a few paragraphs how I view where adoption is at present, and where it is going.
I see RFID deployments like dandelions. Bear with me for a moment—the analogy is more apt than it might seem.
A few years ago, I had my septic tank replaced, and so I decided to re-sod my front lawn, which looked as scraggly as Johnny Depp’s beard. When the new sod was put down, I had a lush, green, weed-free lawn. I loved it. Then, a dandelion seed from one of my neighbors’ lawns, or perhaps deposited by a bird, landed on my lawn and took root. I plucked it out. Then another took root. I sprayed it with an industrial-strength weed killer.
Eventually, however, yet another dandelion took root and grew to maturity while I was too busy to notice—perhaps I was answering Ask the Expert questions. That weed produced more seed, which, carried by the wind, found fertile ground in other areas of the front lawn. Then they sprouted and spread their seeds as well. Now, my front lawn looks like a sea of yellow.
My point is that there is at least one deployment of RFID in just about every industry, and at least one in each country worldwide. One deployment will invariably lead to another. As Wal-mart Stores proves that RFID can greatly improve a retailer’s ability to track apparel, other retailers will explore its potential. As Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing shows that RFID can be employed to track work in process, other aerospace parts manufacturers will want to use the technology as well. As BP proves that RFID can be utilized to track workers to ensure their safety, other energy companies will adopt similar applications.
It has taken a long time for the first seeds to sprout. When a technology is immature, only visionaries adopt it. Projects fail, but because the technology solves problems that existing systems can not address, vendors and end users persist. Visionaries are followed by early adopters, who work with technology providers to create a “whole product,” according to Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, the seminal work on technology-adoption cycles. It takes time to turn a new technology into a product that can be deployed. The early adopters have largely done that in many industries.
I would expect that over the next five years or so, we will see the first seeds that were planted five to seven years ago finally bear fruit, and that will encourage more early adopters to deploy the technology. We’re already seeing this happen. At some stage, Moore says, there are enough early adopters to encourage other companies (the “early majority,” in his lingo) to deploy a new technology, after which adoption will ramp up quickly. Before you know it, the industry will be covered in dandelions.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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