The Challenge of Choosing the Best of the Best

By Mark Roberti

Selecting the top RFID deployments in any given year is very difficult, but it is worth the effort.

My father, a mathematician who solved Fermat's Last Theorem, never voted in a local, state or federal election throughout his 83 years. That might strike you as an odd opening sentence for a column about radio frequency identification, but it is relevant. You'll see why after I explain why my father never voted.

My father knew that the courts in New York State chose jurors from among registered voter rolls. He was fairly political, but he never registered to vote because he did not want to ever be a juror. "You cannot judge another man," he would say, "until you have walked in his shoes."

I used to argue with him about this, saying that while that might be true, it was not a reason to avoid serving as a juror. If everyone took his position, then a single judge would have the right to convict people or settle lawsuits, and that would likely produce a worse result. It was better, I argued, to have an imperfect jury system than to have no jury system at all.

The same is true with the RFID Journal Awards. Each year, a panel of industry academics and thought leaders attempts to select the best RFID implementation, the most innovative use of RFID, the best use of RFID to enhance a product or service, the best use of RFID to help the environment and the best new product (see Meet the Judges). This is a herculean task, as the deployments cover many industries and applications, the vast majority of submissions are impressive, and trying to narrow the list down to only three finalists in each category is difficult.

This year, some of the judges sent me long paragraphs explaining why they chose a particular entry over another, and they often included commentary about submissions that didn't make their top three, but were still worthy of recognition. "There's something to be said about this smaller-scale project before dismissing it," wrote Harold Boeck, a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, regarding one project that didn't make his top three. "It's a real-life-practical-small-scale-everyday-operations project that anyone can accomplish. The project required no consultants or systems integrator and was entirely done in-house, and installation time was only a few hours. The project demonstrates clear benefits and a rapid, clearly defined ROI that anyone can achieve if they put their minds to it."

I know I found myself reading and rereading some of the entries to try to choose from among six or seven. With several, I wished the submission had more detail or some key performance indicators that would have shown that the project delivered real benefits. Unfortunately, not every submission is as detailed as one would like.

I wish all of the judges could travel to the site of every submission and see each project with his or her own eyes. Obviously, that is just not feasible. But we all did our best, without fear or favor, to pick the top three within each category (10 finalists make it for the Best in Show category).

There are always grumblings about the choices we make. Every year, I receive a few e-mails from people who feel they should have been among the finalists, and I expect that will happen this year, too—and that's OK. I'm glad people feel strongly about their submission and the value of the awards.

You can view the list of finalists here. You will be able to hear most of their presentations at RFID Journal LIVE! 2013, to be held from Apr. 30 to May 2, in Orlando, Fla., and we will also feature the winners in the May-June 2013 issue of our electronic magazine. In addition, we plan to write about some of the finalists, as well as some of the entries that didn't make the final cut. Our goal is to highlight the great things being done around the world with RFID.

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.