An Industry Full Of Promise
Although not what it used to be, the AIDC industry still has much to offer the channel.
As September rolls around, we in the AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) field prepare for our annual sojourn in Chicago for the Frontline Solutions Expo (September 23 to 26). It is there that we expect to see the latest and the greatest, the products that will shape the future of our industry. But what exactly is the future of the AIDC industry?
A few months ago I was speaking with a retired executive of an AIDC hardware manufacturer. This guy had worked for years in the AIDC field and still keeps himself informed of current industry news. In fact, although retired, he still attends some of the Frontline Expos. Not this year, though. "There's nothing new to see in this industry anymore," he stated as his reason for not going this year. "What about all of the RFID [radio frequency identification] and wireless networking products?" I retorted. "That stuff has been out for years in one manner or another," he responded. After I thought about it, I realized he was right. Faster print speeds, longer read ranges, color screens - feature improvements like these aren't going to revolutionize the industry. But, so what? So what if some pundits say the AIDC industry is mature and not growing in leaps and bounds? Does that mean there still aren't applications out there for data collection technologies? Does that mean a VAR still can't survive and grow a business dedicated to data collection technologies?
Do We Really Need To Redefine AIDC?
I've heard a lot of talk these past few years from analysts, researchers, and vendors who have said the AIDC industry needs an overhaul. They say we need to reconsider what this "industry" encompasses. For example, should wireless networking equipment be included as part of the AIDC universe? Even the Frontline Expo isn't what it used to be. This year the show will be divided into three separate but related events: the Auto ID and RFID Conference and Expo, the Industrial Mobile and Wireless Conference and Expo, and the Collaborative Commerce Conference and Expo. That's a big difference from the days when the show was simply known as SCANTECH.
When this topic of an industry facelift comes up, I always think about how the VARs and integrators I speak with would respond. Honestly, I think they couldn't care less about how this industry is defined. It's like Rick Morgan, editor of SCAN: The Data Capture Report once told me: No matter what you call this industry, as long as there is data of some sort being collected, there is always going to be a need for AIDC products.
It's All About Your Value-Added Services
The successful AIDC VARs and integrators are constantly adapting to the changes of this industry by adding new products or services. For instance, this issue features an article about Miles Data Technologies, LLC (Milwaukee). Miles Data knew it couldn't compete with the low hardware prices offered by large Internet warehouse companies. So instead, this integrator actively promotes its expertise in repair services, testing, and harsh environment labeling. In other words, Miles adapted from being a hardware-centric VAR to an integrator that now expects a 24% growth rate this year.
Remember, there are markets that have yet to adopt barely any AIDC technologies. Of course, the healthcare market is one such vertical we have been hearing about for years. I can tell you that after working for 10 years in healthcare, I would have to agree it is a hotbed for any enterprising and patient VAR or integrator. My wife works at a hospital and comes home each week with a different example of a process that could easily benefit from some sort of AIDC technology.
Thus, despite some people's perception that the AIDC industry is suffering an identity crisis, one fact remains: business opportunities still abound for channel members in this field. Defining the future of the AIDC industry is meaningless. Defining the future of your AIDC industry is paramount.