There are always barriers to adopting a new technology, and radio frequency identification is no exception. There are different types of RFID—passive high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF), active systems, real-time location systems (RTLS) and so forth—and adoption levels are slightly different for each type. But in general, here are the issues hindering the technology’s rapid adoption.
RFID is not plug-and-play. Passive UHF systems can be challenging to deploy, because the tags don’t broadcast a signal. To read the tags, you must get sufficient energy from the reader antenna to the tag antenna. There are a number of factors that can limit the system’s reliability—that is, environmental factors can prevent tags from being read. Sometimes, you might end up reading tags you don’t want to read. Even with an active system, RF engineers need to conduct a site survey and configure the solution so that it will work effectively. This adds to the system’s cost, and also increases the risk of the deployment.
Lack of software. There are a number of companies that have developed applications to take advantage of the serialized data that can be captured with RFID solutions, but there are no software applications that solve particular problems in specific industries. That means some applications require businesses to write their own software, or to hire a systems integrator to do so, and it also increases the costs and risks.
Lack of best practices. RFID is a fairly new technology, and there are not a lot of best practices that would help people to deploy it successfully.
Lack of standards. In some industries, such as retail apparel, there is widespread agreement among end users regarding which type of RFID works best (in this case, passive UHF), but other sectors have no such agreement. Hospitals, for example, are deploying active systems that utilize proprietary protocols, ZigBee or Wi-Fi. With no clear consensus as to which type of technology is best, many medical facilities will delay adoption, wishing not to adopt something that could become obsolete.
Change management. RFID involves streamlining business processes to achieve benefits. Often, people don’t want to do things in a new way. This makes deployments more challenging.
Progress is being made on all of these fronts, and adoption is picking up. We recently reported that more than 1 billion passive UHF tags will be consumed in 2010 (see Sales of EPC RFID Tags, ICs Reach Record Levels). That indicates adoption is beginning to ramp up.
—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal
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