Mar 24, 2014Our annual RFID Journal LIVE!conference and exhibition has always been a microcosm of the radio frequency identification industry. The exhibitors represent the larger pool of RFID solution providers globally, and the attendees reflect the companies that are investing in the technology to improve the way they do business. LIVE! 2014 will be held on Apr. 8-10, in Orlando, Fla. As I look at the list of firms that have registered for the event (at the See Who's Coming page), it tells me a few things about RFID today.
One is that the technology is all over the map. I mean that literally. We have exhibitors lined up from the United States, Brazil, South Korea, France, Russia, Italy, China and other nations. And attendees hail from more than 40 countries, from Argentina to Venezuela (alas, no one from Zaire or Zimbabwe has yet registered).
Attendees also come from more than 30 industries, including chemicals, defense, energy, government, health care, logistics, manufacturing, retail and telecommunications. There are companies that manage uniforms, rent equipment, haul waste and run events. What these businesses and organizations have in common is a problem managing things—work-in-process, inventory, tools, individuals, vehicles, data-center computers and so forth.
These are classic early adopters. They are not technology enthusiasts who invest in new technologies before they are fully developed—they're companies that are conservative in their approach to new technologies, but are driven to adopt RFID before the masses because they have a compelling business reason to do so. The need outweighs any perceived risk.
I was speaking on the phone with a gentleman from a pharmaceutical company as part of our Concierge Service. He was having trouble ensuring that vials of early-stage drugs were not getting mixed up during testing, and he wanted to use RFID to warn people working with vials that they had accidently picked up the wrong items. It was critical to eliminate errors, he said, as they can be very costly since employees then need to start their work over.
It's the job of the RFID industry to solve the problems of these early adopters, and to use each success to encourage similar companies to adopt the technology. As a growing number of businesses deploy the technology, RFID will reach critical mass and adoption will take off. But if these firms are unable to find the right solution—not because it doesn't exist, but because the vendors offerings such a solution never market it to them—then adoption will continue to be slow.
It might seem strange, but one problem in the RFID industry is a lack of marketing. Some companies never run ads or exhibit at events. They just sit back and wait for referrals from partners, such as Avery Dennison, Impinj, Motorola, NXP Semiconductors or Smartrac. Other vendors exhibit but do not advertise. As a consequence, end users who need their products walk right by their booth without stopping in. Sometimes, these end users ultimately give up on RFID because they think the solution for their problem does not exist when it actually does.
The thing is, RFID vendors do not have to spend a small fortune on advertising. RFID Journal offers targeted, low-cost advertising, as well as free marketing tools. Vendors should take advantage of RFID Connect to identify end users that need their solutions. There's still time to reach out to attendees before LIVE! 2014. This would not just grow a solution provider's business, but it would also solve a customer's problem—and help the industry to reach critical mass sooner.
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.