Make Your Choice Now About RFID
On the eve of attending this year’s RFID World conference, my mind is filled with questions. Of all of the show’s interesting seminars and panel discussions, which ones would I pick if I were a VAR or integrator serious about entering this burgeoning market? Will the show change next year since Shorecliff Communications, which started the event a few years ago, was recently sold to CMP Media? And how did a show like this grow its number of exhibitors by 35% in one year? I mean, who are all of the newcomers who suddenly consider this show important enough to shell out the cash for one of the 172 (sold out) exhibit spaces? Furthermore, how about the fact that the number of attendees has tripled this year as compared with 2005’s event? That type of radical growth is like Jessica Simpson going from starring in The Dukes of Hazzard to winning an Academy Award.
All of this growth makes me wonder further if the RFID (radio frequency identification) industry is moving too fast for the channel. Will the technology soon be ubiquitous and so simple to install and manage that the services of a VAR or integrator won’t be needed? I can see it now: companies will buy their tags at office supply stores like Staples, cell phones will have built-in RFID readers, and any type of software that collects data — even Excel — will be designed to accept RFID data. According to integrator Jeffery Kurschner, the RFID industry has already seen the latter type of evolution in the area of middleware. Kurschner, whom I interviewed for the article on page 38 called Start Small, Grow Fast With RFID, notes that a few years ago there were numerous RFID middleware companies. Today though, much of the filtering functionality these products touted is standard in many WMS (warehouse management system) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications.
Kurschner also discussed the expected high growth rates of RFID in the pharmaceutical market. “My view is that HF [high-frequency] RFID applications will take off in the United States if and when the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] blesses the technology. Until then, any medical device or life sciences company is only ‘piloting’ the technology.” I think Kurschner’s skepticism is a positive trait for a VAR or integrator to have regarding RFID applications and vertical markets. In fact, I’m guessing the majority of attendees at this year’s RFID World will be there trying to validate their own RFID questions and concerns. But don’t let your uncertainties about RFID cloud your decision to sell this technology.
While I, like you, still have many questions about the future of the technology, there are some points I think VARs should understand about today’s RFID technology. First, the many deployments that have occurred in the past few years are now demonstrating the business case for RFID. In other words, these deployments are proving they can provide a return on investment, and often beyond just keeping a large client like Wal-Mart. Second, look for more mergers and acquisitions in the RFID space. Third, expect more RFID mandates, which means more potential customers for you. And don’t think all of the RFID opportunities will be open-loop systems. Closed-loop systems have been in use for many years and are often easier to prove ROI — especially if you use active tags, which are reusable. Finally, I don’t think you can afford to sit and wait on this technology anymore. Obviously, judging from the number of attendees at this year’s RFID World conference, a lot of other people feel the same way.