What Kind Of AIDC VAR Are You?
Are you kidding me? That’s all I could think of saying as I watched my first draft of this article disappear into digital oblivion, the casualty of one of the frequent power outages in my neighborhood. (I’m writing this at home instead of at work because I have been traveling a lot this year to trade shows, partner conferences, and most recently, ScanSource’s RFID [radio frequency identification] training course.) What made me madder than losing those first few sentences was the fact that I have a brand-new surge protector/battery backup sitting right on my desk waiting for me to install it.
What does all of this have to do with AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) or RFID technologies, the topics of this Business Solutions supplement? Add-ons. A surge protector/battery backup is an add-on, an accessory to a computer system. It’s a logical addition because computer users don’t want to risk losing important data and feeling like I did a few minutes ago. And what I’ve noticed lately is that a lot of AIDC VARs are looking for new add-ons to their existing customers' systems.
If you’ve read Business Solutions for any extended time period, you know we’ve always tried to promote the concept of selling crossing or complementary technologies. Recently, I’ve noticed more VARs trying to do this. I’ve spoken to data collection VARs who are expanding into selling POS (point of sale) products while others are adding newer technologies like VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and telephony services (for an example, see my article in the May 2006 issue titled Beyond Just AIDC Sales). RFID, of course, seems to be the most commonly added technology these days. But is that really a complementary technology for an AIDC VAR? I don’t think so.
To me, RFID is just another type of data collection. If you’ve been selling a client bar code equipment for years, and you suddenly start pitching RFID, the client probably won’t question your expertise. But go from selling bar code equipment to a different kind of technology such as VoIP, and you’re likely to see some skeptical looks.
Don’t get me wrong; I do believe RFID is just another form of data collection, but I don’t believe it is an easy add-on — even for an AIDC VAR. Bar code symbologies don’t translate into RFID tag types. The expertise you may have with designing fixed-mount bar code scanner systems won’t help you when designing RFID portals. You will have a significant learning curve, and you will have significant education costs. In other words, it won’t be easy. Trust me. Read my article in this issue chronicling my experiences at ScanSource’s recent RFID Edge training program. The guys in that program were experienced in bar code technology and had some basic understanding of RFID. But did they understand the intricacies of the Wal-Mart mandate or know how to determine the best RFID tag placement on a crate or pallet? No way.
As an AIDC VAR, as your clients' trusted advisor in all things data collection related, you should understand RFID at more than a surface level. Even if you have no RFID products in your building or no immediate plans of installing an RFID system, you should have RFID knowledge. Not having it today is risky, like using a computer without a battery backup in an area prone to power outages.