What Could Slow RFID Adoption?

By Mark Roberti

Despite the advancements in the technology during the past five years and the expanding number of companies proving the business case for RFID, there are issues that could inhibit wide-scale use.

For the past few weeks, I have been writing about the signs that adoption of radio frequency identification technologies is picking up. While I believe wide-scale use of the technology is inevitable, there are factors that are inhibiting adoption and, if not addressed, could delay the tipping point from being reached.

First, let me say that cost—particularly, the price of tags—is no longer an issue. I am not asked that question very often anymore. So those investigating RFID now understand that it's about the return on investment (ROI), and they believe the cost of RFID systems has reached a point where they will likely achieve such a return.

So what could prevent adoption from accelerating more rapidly? Number-one is the complexity of an RFID deployment. Passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology has improved greatly during the past five years, but it's still not plug-and-play. Companies sometimes have issues with reading tags they don't want to read. There are issues related to integrating RFID data with back-end systems. And businesses often have to buy tags, readers and software from three different suppliers.

Given the nature of radio waves, there will always be differences in the way in which passive UHF RFID systems perform in different environments. That's understandable, but systems still need to be easier to deploy than they are today. The industry needs more tools to help companies quickly address issues that do arise.

It's likely that companies will mix and match hardware based on the EPC Gen 2 standard, but it would help if there were software that made it easier to use the data culled from RFID systems. Some hardware providers, such as Impinj, Mojix, Smartrac and Zebra Technologies, have taken matters in their own hands and have developed software to make deployments easier.

Another issue is the behavior of RFID solution providers. Some companies act as if they are in stealth mode. They keep their successful deployments secret, hiding away end users that could tout the technology and their solution, when they should be actively trying to get these customers in front of as many other potential customers as possible. They also keep their products largely hidden from view. Sure, they will put out a press release announcing a new product and promote it on their website, but they do little beyond that. As a result, most end users have no clue which companies offer the solutions they need, so many give up looking and don't deploy.

I think these problems will be addressed. The market is evolving quickly and will continue to do so. Market forces will push vendors to simplify products and make them easier to deploy, and as the market grows, they will have more funds to promote new products.

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.