When Clichés Become Reality

By Mark Roberti

RFID could be a game-changing technology.

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Every technology provider claims its solution will help companies "get to the next level" or "transform operations," offering a "step change" that will give them a huge competitive advantage. In many cases, these clichés are just empty marketing promises, but in the RFID industry, they are beginning ring true. Consider, for example, how the winners of this year's RFID Journal Awards are using the technology.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical received the award for Best RFID Implementation (see story). The South Korean company produces more than 500 different medical products and ships 60 percent of its output directly to hospitals and pharmacies. It needed to improve its shipping accuracy and gain better visibility into its supply chain.

Photo: Tom Hurst | RIFID Journal

Hanmi developed a cost-effective way to apply RFID transponders to individual pill bottles and packages containing blister packs. Since the company launched the RFID-enabled inventory management and shipping system in 2009, its average tag-read success rate has reached 99.9 percent. Its ordering and shipment process accuracy also has hit 99.9 percent, and its time efficiency has improved by 300 to 400 percent. Now, that's a step change.

Boeing won the award for Best Use of RFID to Enhance a Product or Service (see story). Boeing's commercial airplanes—indeed, all airplanes—undergo daily, weekly and monthly maintenance checks to ensure they're flight-ready. Manually inspecting life vests, oxygen generators and other loose emergency equipment in an aircraft's cabin is a labor-intensive and costly process.

Boeing developed a service called RFID Integrated Solutions, which it hopes will become part of all airlines' maintenance programs. Today, airlines conduct separate manual checks to ensure there is a life vest under each passenger seat, it hasn't been tampered with and it functions properly. These checks can take 10 hours. But with the Boeing solution, an airline can use one RFID-enabled process to perform presence, security and serviceability checks in only a few minutes. That's process transformation.

Infinite Biomedical Technologies was the recipient of the Most Innovative Use of RFID Award for an RFID system enabling a prosthetic limb to operate more effectively and naturally (see story). And the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., took home the RFID Green Award for a system that reduces waste and increases recycling (see story). That's getting to a higher level.

Kevin Ashton was honored with the Special Achievement Award for his tireless work in promoting RFID technology while he was executive director of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, from 1999 to 2003 (see story). And Impinj's new xArray reader system walked off with the award for Best in Show, which acknowledges the best new product at RFID Journal LIVE! The xArray system provides wide-area monitoring through its beam-forming antenna array, which creates a 40-foot-diameter read field when installed at a ceiling height of 15 feet (see story).

So if you're still thinking—"Is RFID really a game-changing technology?"—the answer is, it can be if you use it wisely.

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.