RFID in the Middle East

By Mark Roberti

The region is beginning to embrace RFID as a means of improving efficiencies in many industries—but more education is needed.


Last week, we held RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East 2009, our first conference and exhibition in that region. That event was small compared to others we have hosted—approximately 150 registrants—but the attendees, from a variety of sectors and areas of interests, were very engaged. Still, it became clear to me during the conference that more education is needed to help companies in the Middle East understand how radio frequency identification can help them improve the way they do business.

The event opened with a thought-provoking presentation from Sabri Hamed Al Azazi—a technology evangelist and the CIO of Dubai Holding, a diversified company owned by the ruler of that nation. Al Azazi described futuristic RFID applications, such as RFID-enabled robotic babysitters and cashiers, intelligent houses, and smart toilets that collect information regarding a user’s health. These ideas probably seem a little closer to reality in Dubai, a country that has built the world’s tallest building, as well as islands off the coast in the shape of palm trees.

Carlo Nizam, head of value chain visibility and RFID at Airbus, laid out his company’s vision of using the technology across all of its operations, to collect the data workers require in order to execute tasks more effectively. Nizam discussed the specific RFID applications the company has deployed to date, as well as the benefits Airbus is already achieving. I think the vision he presented resonated with attendees.

There were a number of strong presentations related to RFID applications deployed by companies within the region, including Emirates SkyCargo, Saudi Post, Q-Post General Postal Corp., DP World and Future Communications Co.. After each presentation, an extensive question-and-answer session was provided. Normally, we get one or two questions per speaker. In Dubai, however, we often had 10 or 12. And the questions showed that attendees were both knowledgeable and serious about understanding how and where the technology can deliver benefits.

At the same time, the size of the event and the attendees’ thirst for knowledge were two strong clues that more education needs to be provided in the Middle East. There are industries central to that region’s economy—energy and construction—in which RFID can deliver significant benefits. And there are many hospitals being built in the area of the world, and these can benefit from RFID as well.

I realize the relatively small turnout was due, in no small part, to the economic downturn. One speaker told me she had never seen Dubai International Airport so quiet. But the downturn provides a compelling reason to invest in cost- and labor-saving technologies. The reality is, businesses in the Middle East can no longer depend on rapid economic growth to guarantee profits—they need to focus on efficiencies, reduced labor costs and improved customer service in order to compete.

The RFID industry needs to do more to educate businesses in the Middle East regarding how radio frequency identification can deliver these benefits. One thing I found most helpful about last week’s event was that it enabled RFID Journal‘s editorial team to make contacts in the region, and to better understand the issues facing companies there—and that will help us cover the Middle East more effectively.

I look forward to next year’s RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East, which will build on this year’s event.

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 or click here.