RFID Fantasies

By Mark Roberti

Solution providers have dreams of scoring big deals quickly, which is retarding adoption of RFID technology.


I have been writing about radio frequency identification for 14 years now. During that period of time, I have had countless conversations with sales and marketing people at RFID technology firms. Almost all of them share these common RFID fantasies.

Fantasy 1: If I can just meet the CEO of a large company that could benefit from RFID, I will convince him or her of RFID’s value and land a multi-million-dollar contract.

RFID sales almost never happen this way. In the vast majority of cases, someone within the company has a business problem, and he or she seeks out a solution. If RFID proves to be it, they sell it internally to obtain the funding. Airbus‘ Carlo Nizam is an excellent example. He was a mid-level supply chain execute who realized RFID could solve some visibility issues he was grappling with and do a whole lot more.

The result: Those mid-level executives often do not receive the support they need, and if they are not aggressive in pursuing an RFID solution, the project never gets off the ground.

Fantasy 2: I will discover some large, untapped pool of potential RFID users that no one else has discovered.

Vendors think they will strike gold at an industry event that attracts attendees who could potentially benefit from RFID. They believe they have a captive audience, because there are no speakers talking about RFID and no other RFID companies exhibiting. There’s a reason for this: The attendees are not interested in RFID. And while RFID companies think they can convince those uninterested in the technology that they should buy a solution, history shows that this very rarely happens.

The result: The vendor wastes time and money that could have been spent on companies that are actively seeking RFID solutions. And it’s no secret where these companies are—they are attending RFID events and reading RFID websites.

Fantasy 3: If we just closet away customers, they will buy our solution.

Some vendors have a relationship with a customer, but they do not want to invite the person to speak at or attend an event, because they are afraid the person will meet other vendors.

The result: Missed sales. The best sales tool is having a customer stand up and say RFID delivered value for us and we used XYZ Corp’s technology.

Fantasy 4: If we just call our technology something different, companies will buy it.

A few years ago, RFID did have something of a bad reputation. RFID vendors began calling themselves “sensor network” companies. The technology has improved, and so has its reputation, but some providers still shy away from using the term “RFID.” Some now refer to themselves as Internet of Things companies.

The result: Businesses that are actively seeking RFID technologies don’t investigate some vendors that actually sell RFID hardware or software and might have the solution to their problem.

I know these are fantasies because I talk to so many vendors and so many end users. I’ve seen solution providers with good RFID technology go out of business because they focused their marketing on companies not interested in RFID instead of on those seeking solutions. I receive calls and e-mails from end users all the time who think there are no tamper-evident RFID windshields tags on the market, or no USB UHF RFID readers, or no software for managing in-store inventory. How many people never reach out to me and thus go away without finding a solution?

I realize companies need to try different things when they market their products, and I’m all for evangelizing to those not yet interested in RFID. But solution providers should realize that every hour a salesperson is on the phone talking to a cold prospect whose business card was scooped up at an industry event is an hour not spent talking to someone actually searching for an RFID solution. And I don’t expect anyone to take my word for what works. Look at what others have done—if it seems to work, emulate it, and if not, don’t. I hate to see end users fail to find a solution that exists, or a vendor fail to find a customer because it is entertaining fantasies.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.