What Would Make RFID Adoption Explode?

By Mark Roberti

Making systems simpler, easier to deploy and less expensive would propel adoption.

Last week, I wrote about the prospects for RFID reaching the tipping point of adoption in retail this year (see Is This the Year RFID Takes Off?). I do think there's a chance it could happen, but it raises the question of what factors are necessary in the marketplace before all retailers will embrace the technology.

There are different views among retailers about this. Some feel it's just a matter of bringing down tag costs, while others believe it's a matter of developing solutions that meet retailers' needs, or that deliver information retailers can use in their own ways.

From my discussions with retailers, I believe that what they really want is something easy to deploy and less expensive, even if it means sacrificing some value—that is, they would rather pay less and get a little less per system if it's easily deployable and delivers sufficient value. They are not looking for a solution that does everything.

We already have solutions on the market that do most of what retailers need them to do. Tag costs are low enough to deliver an enormous return on investment for retailers. What's holding up the market, in my view, are two factors.

The first factor is the complexity of the solutions. Users often need to buy tags from one company, readers from another and software from a third, and then install the system. That increases risk to retailers, because if one of those vendors were to mess up, the whole solution would fail.

The second issue is that retailers are busy running their day-to-day business. Adopting a new technology that changes the way in which they do business poses a challenge.

The solution to both problems is to simplify RFID systems. It's not about adding more functionality—it's about making solutions simpler to deploy.

Think about the original Apple iPod. There were software systems and MP3 players that did a lot more than the iPod and iTunes, but Apple's products were easy to use and worked seamlessly together, making it possible for anyone to use them without investing a lot of time and energy to figure out how to utilize the software or the device. The result was an explosion in iPod sales.

I believe that if someone were to create a cost-effective RFID system, enabling a user to simply drop it into a ceiling, plug it in and start collecting useful data without a lot of integration hassles, adoption would take off. Of course, if an existing product were to gain significant traction, that could bring down its price and further propel it in the market. Either way, it seems we are getting closer to market acceptance and large-scale adoption in retail.

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.