The Importance of Networking

By Mark Roberti

Meeting other business executives grappling with RFID issues can be insightful.

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I gave a speech to a group of packaging executives in New Jersey last week. After my presentation, I was chatting with a gentleman who was excited about attending RFID Journal LIVE! 2005, our executive conference being held in Chicago next month. Only he wasn’t excited about it for the reasons I thought.

As a journalist, I tend to think that the main draw of our conference is the quality of the information we provide. The conference will feature top-notch presenters who will address the issues our readers tell us they are grappling with. So the packaging executive took me by surprise when he said: “The speakers are great, Mark. But frankly, that’s not the main reason I’m coming.”

OK, I thought. I know we have a reputation for serving good food, hosting lively cocktail receptions and providing great entertainment, but I didn’t imagine that was the draw for a busy executive, so I asked him: “What’s the main reason you’re coming?”

“Networking,” he said. “I want to find out what’s really going on. I can meet customers and potential customers, even competitors. That’s very valuable.”

As I was driving back to Long Island, I had a lot of time to think about the benefits of networking with other executives who are grappling with the issues surrounding RFID deployments (the ride took seven hours because of a snow storm). Unlike most of you, I meet end users, vendors, systems integrators and consultants almost every day, or speak to them over the phone, so I have a pretty good feel for what’s happening in the real world.

RFID Journal LIVE! gives you this face-time and a chance to sort out all the confusion in the market. Some stories are overly bullish about RFID. It will transform your supply chain and make the bar code obsolete in a few short years. Others are overly pessimistic. The technology is too expensive and delivers no business value. Of course, neither of these views is right. At our conference, you can take the temperature of the market, and that’s critical to making decisions about when to deploy and how. (Download a sampling of titles and company names from the several hundred people who have already registered for the event.)

While I’m now more appreciative of the value of networking, I’m also pleased that others have told me they’re attending the event because of the content—information they feel they can’t get anywhere else. One reader was blown away by the chance to hear from four illustrious panelists participating in one session of our preconference seminar “Investing in RFID.”

“RFID in 2010” features Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and recipient of the National Medal of Technology from President Bush; Arno Penzias, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1978; Sanjay Sarma, cofounder of the Auto-ID Center; and Dan Engels, the research director at the MIT Auto-ID Labs. (The work Sarma and Engels have done with David Brock and others at MIT might go down in history as being as important as Metcalfe’s work on the Internet.)

Others are looking forward to attending particular sessions. For instance, Simon Langford, Wal-Mart’s manager of Global RFID strategy, and Mike O’Shea, head of Kimberly-Clark’s RFID program, will discuss how they worked together to solve the problem of reading tags on products that are unfriendly to RF systems. Langford will also participate in a panel discussion with Milan Turk, Procter & Gamble’s director of global consumer e-business, on how RFID can reduce out-of-stocks. (Download the Agenda at Glance.)

Alan Estevez, assistant deputy under secretary of defense (supply chain integration), will update attendees on the U.S. Department of Defense’s RFID implementation. Boeing and Airbus will discuss their implementations. Paul Saffo, the renowned futurist and best-selling author, will put RFID in the context of other emerging technologies and the changing business landscape. And we’ll have more than a dozen real-world case studies that show the challenges and benefits of deploying RFID technologies.

Of course, you’ll be able to network with the speakers, as well as other attendees and sponsors, during two cocktail receptions. The bottom line is that the conference is an opportunity to learn from early adopters and gather intelligence about what your business partners, competitors and others are really doing with RFID today.

NOTE: Discounts on hotel rooms at the Sheraton for RFID Journal LIVE! 2005 expire on March 18. If you plan to attend, please register and book your room by Friday.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below.