Signs of Momentum for RFID

By Mark Roberti

Anecdotal information suggests that adoption is beginning to accelerate.

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It’s always a mistake to read too much into flecks of information that might not add up to a complete picture, but I am seeing signs that the adoption of radio frequency technologies, in all its forms, is beginning to accelerate.

One sign adoption is picking up is that registrations for RFID Journal LIVE! 2013—our 11th annual conference and exhibition, being held from Apr. 30 to May 2, in Orlando, Fla.—are pacing ahead of the past four years. It’s always possible that registrations will slow down as we get closer to the event, but based on the strength I’ve seen so far, I don’t anticipate that happening.

Another sign, based on data from the surveys RFID Journal conducted for our RFID Marketer’s Handbook, is that companies are spending less time researching the proper solution before deploying an RFID system. In 2009, we asked end users and potential end users how much time elapsed between when they first began researching RFID and when they deployed a solution. Only 18 percent reported that this took one year. When we asked the same question in late 2012, however, 48 percent said one year.

This suggests that RFID technology has matured to the point at which end users don’t need to spend three or four years researching and testing the technology. It might also mean that enough early adopters have proven the benefits that others are more willing to move forward with a deployment. Either way, the data dovetails with what we are seeing in registrations at our event: Among the increasing number of people signing up are those who are relatively new RFID Journal readers.

A third sign I see is the growing optimism among RFID technology providers. Many companies I meet with indicate that business started picking up for them during the second half of last year, and that it has remained strong so far in 2013. I was having lunch with the head of RFID at one of the larger solution providers recently, and he said he had received a telephone call that morning, with news that his firm had just signed an $8 million contract. There was a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago, when $8 million would have been a good quarter, not a good day.

Exhibitors at LIVE! 2013 also seem more engaged this year than at previous events. Some are signing up for larger booths and/or asking about marketing opportunities at the conference. And many plan to introduce new products at the event. So it seems businesses are feeling good about the market right now.

RFID has always progressed in fits and starts, but I do believe this momentum is real—and that adoption will not only continue, but accelerate.

It will continue because many current deployments are large-scale and involve mission-critical applications. At the same time, smaller organizations are finding it cost-effective to deploy RFID. Two finalists for the RFID Journal Green Award, for example, are the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Riverside Health Fitness Center.

What’s more, adoption is not just happening in only one industry or region. It is occurring within almost every sector worldwide. Entries for this year’s RFID Journal Awards were submitted from companies in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, and involved aerospace, health care, logistics, manufacturing, retail and pharmaceuticals. The finalists for the Best RFID Implementation of 2013, for example, hail from India, South Korea and Sweden.

Adoption will accelerate for two reasons. More and larger deployments will bring prices of hardware, software and services down, which will make the technology worth using for applications in which the return on investment isn’t clear today. Moreover, as RFID solution providers begin to achieve more revenue, they will invest more in new product development. As the pace of innovation quickens, there will be a greater number of RFID solutions available to meet end users’ needs.

I don’t expect adoption to begin soaring any time soon. That will happen when retail apparel hits the tipping point, and that development is still a few years away. But all signs indicate that the RFID industry is gaining strength, which is good news for all companies within all industries.

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.