The Promotional Value of RFID

By Mark Roberti

There's no doubt that end users, vendors and standards bodies are making great strides.

I hear lots of talk and read stories about how radio frequency identification technologies offer no value to manufacturers of consumer packaged goods. Anyone who believes that will change their opinion when they read our cover story, "Kimberly-Clark Gets an Early Win." It shows how the global health and hygiene company is using RFID to improve execution of in-store promotional displays by 20 percent—and that will lead to an increase in sales of those items.

Kimberly-Clark is using RFID data to make sure promotional displays are in the store when the promotion is being advertised. That's going to deliver a huge return on investment for K-C. Do the math. A 20-cent tag can be used to track a display with several hundred dollars' worth of product.

It wasn't easy for K-C and its software provider, OATSystems, to solve all the operational and technical issues surrounding tagging displays. Our cover story goes into great depth about what these challenges were and how

K-C and OATSystems overcame them. And there is still more work to be done. K-C and its retail customer, Wal-Mart, and third-party merchandising service provider, Crossmark, are devising new business processes to ensure that displays always get to the floor on time. But K-C clearly knows, based on the results it has achieved over the past few months, that these efforts will pay off handsomely.

Other companies are exploring the next frontier in RFID—the cold chain (see "Cold Chain Heats Up RFID Adoption"). Given the importance of maintaining fresh produce, certain pharmaceutical drugs and other products within a given temperature range, many feel this is a huge opportunity to achieve near-term return on investment from next-generation RFID systems.

In the future, RFID-based temperature loggers might be powered by innovative thin-film batteries (see "Thin Is In for RFID Batteries"). These slim, flexible and lightweight batteries can be molded into or applied to an array of tags and sensors, making them suitable for a variety of RFID devices and applications. In addition, they are environmentally friendly.

Thin-film batteries might be used in the airline industry to power active tags on airplane parts, and to track larger assets in manufacturing facilities and travelers' luggage from check-in to destination. As this issue's Vertical Focus points out, RFID is being used today throughout the aerospace industry (see "RFID Takes Off in the Aerospace Industry").

There's no doubt that end users, vendors and standards bodies are making great strides. They are putting in place all the pieces that companies will need to use RFID technology to achieve a level of supply-chain visibility and operational efficiency that has been previously unimagined. The work isn't glorious and doesn't always grab headlines, but those who cling to the notion that there are no").