May 21, 2012News coverage of radio frequency identification may have finally come full-circle. During the early days, the technology was hyped as something that would drive a stake through the heart of the hapless bar code, and transform the global supply chain overnight. When that didn't happen, coverage went starkly negative: RFID was a flop, it was too expensive, read rates were below 86 percent, and so forth.
Recently, the tone seems to have changed back again. Stories are more positive, and more realistic, when discussing the benefits that RFID can deliver. One good example is an article that appeared last week, written by Robert L. DiLonardo and posted on Lost Prevention Magazine's Web site.
In the article, titled "Retail RFID: When and How, not Why or If," DiLonardo wrote: "The primary message from the retail practitioners, academic researchers and technology providers who addressed the gathering [at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012] is that RFID works... by any definition of the word. The seven years of effort in standards development are now paying off... Best of all, the retail pioneers, such as Bloomingdale's, Dillard's, Walmart, JCPenney, American Apparel and the Metro Group in Europe have achieved their initial goals of getting better visibility to merchandise inventory, streamlining the item-level stock-count process and obtaining a significant return on investment."
Also noteworthy was an article published last week on the Web site StorefrontBacktalk, which has generally been skeptical of RFID's benefits. The article was titled "Doing Online Fulfillment In-Store Is Harder Than Macy's Thought."
In the article, writer Frank Hayes commented on a Wall Street Journal story discussing Macy's attempts to fulfill online orders from nearby stores. He wrote: "The Journal described the in-store Macy's distribution center in a Paramus, N.J., mall as 'a dimly-lit, makeshift packing area' and said workers struggled to find merchandise in the store that exactly matched orders specifying colors with non-intuitive names such as 'journey' and 'magical.' Amazon this ain't."
Ouch. Hayes went on to say: "The irony is that Macy's may already have the answer to its product-finding problem—by leveraging a completely different in-store IT initiative." The initiative he referred to is RFID. "With an RFID gun in hand, Macy's in-store DC workers should be able to track down exactly the right item almost instantly," he noted. "If the system is really clever, it should be possible to automatically download the items to be searched for into the gun, so picking out the right merchandise won't even require referring to a screen."
Retailers are starting to get it. And reporters are starting to get it. It's a positive sign for those of us who believe RFID can deliver huge benefits to retailers—and to many other sectors as well.
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.