RFID Is Getting Better All the Time

By Mark Roberti

Presenting the third annual RFID Journal Awards.


The Beatles’ song “Getting Better” comes to mind when I think about the current state of radio frequency identification and our third annual RFID Journal Awards, which were presented at our RFID Journal LIVE! event in April. In past years, there were a handful of really impressive projects, but this year the quality of the submissions was better across the board, and several judges told me they had a hard time choosing just one winner.

The goal of these awards is to highlight RFID success stories and show how the technology can be used to benefit a wide array of businesses. To that end, we’ve dedicated most of this issue to the winners. Charles Vögele Group, a Swiss apparel retailer with 851 stores, won for Best RFID Implementation. This company is the first I’m aware of to track individual items from the point of manufacture to the point of sale. So far, it has tracked more than 380,000 items, achieving a 70 percent reduction in the time required to take inventory in stores and warehouses, and a 7 percent improvement in picking of orders at the factory.

Vail Resorts earned this year’s award for Best Use of RFID in a Service, with its deployment of RFID in a challenging environment to speed skiers and snowboarders through its lift lines. In addition to improving customer service, the system has reduced fraudulent use of lift tickets and given Vail Resorts insights into how customers use the various trails, enabling it to better target marketing and promotional offers.

Magazines have struggled to quantify the value of print advertising. German news magazine Focus solved the problem, and in doing so secured our award for Most Innovative Use of RFID. The magazine developed a system that enables it to track how many people in a household read each issue, and the amount of time they spend reading each article and looking at each ad. The publisher says its advertisers have been impressed with the results.

Last year, we introduced a Best in Show award to recognize the innovative work being done by RFID technology providers. This year, the judges chose ODIN Technologies‘ SMART Container, a system that can continuously track item-level EPC Gen 2 tags within a shipping container, then communicate that data via a satellite, cellular or Wi-Fi connection, or active RFID, to provide organizations with end-to-end visibility of their shipments.

While Charles Vögele may be the first to deploy an end-to-end item-level tracking system, many other apparel and footwear retailers are adopting RFID to manage inventory more efficiently, increase shipping accuracy and be more responsive to customer needs. Smart shelves are among the RFID tools that retailers—as well as discrete manufacturers, hospitals and other businesses—are employing to improve inventory control.

As RFID gets better, it becomes harder to choose a few winners. But that’s a problem we welcome. We look forward to highlighting the runners-up—as well as all the other deployments and developments that are happening around the world—in the pages of this magazine, on our Web site and at our events.