Why Ask Tom Ridge to Keynote?

By Mark Roberti

Because the spotlight needs to be put on RFID and supply chain security.

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Most companies that run events do a “call for papers.” Essentially, they ask people to send them a pitch explaining why the event organizer should choose them to speak. The organizer then selects speakers from among the best pitches. RFID Journal takes a different, more editorial approach. We ask our readers what types of speakers they want to hear and what topics they want to learn about, and then we recruit the experts who fit the profile.

There is one notable exception to this approach. While only a small percentage of our readers said they were interested in safety and security applications (which I frankly find perplexing), RFID Journal invited Tom Ridge, the former Secretary for Homeland Security, to be the opening keynote speaker at RFID Journal LIVE! 2005.

I believe a media company’s job is not just to provide readers and event attendees with the information they want but also to have the foresight to present information people need to know. In fact, I invited Ridge to speak at RFID Journal LIVE! 2005 for precisely this reason. There’s a great deal of value in combining the benefits of supply train tracking with the benefits of securing goods, meeting regulatory requirements and other business needs. And Ridge can focus the spotlight better than anyone else on the need to secure the supply chain. (I invited Ridge to be our keynoter in 2004, but the demands of the job made him unable to participate last year.)

Logistics providers understand the enormous benefits of having better information on where containers are and what’s in them—and on being able to track where containers have been, from the moment they were loaded until the moment they were unloaded. But no logistics provider wants to invest millions in the infrastructure needed to do this when their competitors aren’t doing it, because it would put them at a cost disadvantage in the short term.

Regulation could level the playing field and force all providers to do it simultaneously. But there’s a downside to this approach as well—the cost is passed on to companies shipping their goods and eventually on to consumers.

Ridge’s Homeland Security Department tested RFID for tracking containers (as well as identifying people at border crossings), and the results of those tests were promising. Ridge didn’t recommend mandatory use of the technology. Instead, his department took a collaborative approach. And it didn’t look at one technology as the answer. RFID was test with other technologies. I think Ridge understands that successfully securing the supply chain will require more than mandating container tracking. It will require business process and regulatory changes, and better integration and use of the data about goods in the supply chain.

At RFID Journal LIVE! 2005, Ridge will spell out a compelling vision of how RFID and other technologies can be used to improve security. He’ll raise awareness of the issues surround these technologies, and he’ll get people thinking about how the government and private industry can work together to achieve a solution that not only makes the country safer, but also helps companies cut costs and improve efficiency. That makes him the perfect choice to open an event that is all about helping companies understand the opportunities and challenges RFID presents.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below.