The other day, one of my neighbors asked me what was new in the technology world I write about. Of course, RFID (radio frequency identification) was the first thing that came to mind, so I began explaining what the acronym meant. However, he interrupted me as I began, saying he remembered me telling him about RFID a few months earlier -- as I recalled, in response to the same question he had just asked. He explained that since our first chat, he had seen some articles about RFID in newspapers and magazines. He gave the impression he clearly understood the concept and benefits of RFID; it held no allure to him, no mystery. It was as if RFID was already passé -- and that scared me.
When people view a technology in this manner, they tend to think it must be prevalent. Likewise, they postulate that if the technology is prevalent, it must be mature and simple to install. All of these assumptions are false, of course. But that doesn't mean your customers' perceptions will be any different.
More To Learn About RFID Than Just Integration
Most VARs are in the learning phase right now with RFID, trying to understand the physics of the technology and the role of each component in a system. Unfortunately, that's going to be the easy part. The hard part will be trying to sell your first RFID system. With little or no experience, how will you estimate payback or ROI? Cost objections will stymie your proposal, and pilots -- possibly the most important part of an RFID deployment -- will need to be shorter (than you would like), due to mandates or just unrealistic client expectations. AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) vendors and distributors are recognizing the need for education to address these issues and are adding it to their existing RFID programs. For instance, both BlueStar and ScanSource recently added RFID professional services for assisting VARs in areas such as presales support and project planning (see pages 26, 28).
Although there seems to be a plethora of RFID education options to choose from these days, that in itself is a challenge. Which do you choose? How do you choose? While I can't support or condemn any particular program, I would suggest seeking one that includes speakers with firsthand RFID installation expertise. And I don't mean experience with just the popular UHF (ultra-high frequency) technology. Find a program with speakers who discuss anecdotes about the challenges of installing and selling all types of RFID. Don't be lured into an education program that only addresses the possibilities of a vendor's particular RFID solution.
That reminds me; it always amazes me how many companies these days claim to be experts in RFID. Just the other day I received a call from a PR person at a computer manufacturer. "We'd like to be included in your bar code and RFID printers Tech Trends article," the voice on the other end explained. "I wasn't aware your company made bar code printers/RFID encoders," I responded. "I don't think we do, but we have been involved with RFID for many years," the voice asserted. Involved with RFID. What does that mean? And what does many years mean? Two? Three? My gut feeling is that the term RFID had never been uttered at many of these companies until the Wal-Mart mandate announcement.
Remember, your customers and the general public all have high expectations for RFID. It's your job to weed out the misconceptions and the pretenders and offer a dose of reality.