The Pros And Cons Of Paranoia In The AIDC Market
Despite the roller coaster economy, sales of AIDC technologies continue to grow. But, this field has evolved to include much more than bar codes. Are you prepared?
Recently, I was reading an article by a so-called expert in the AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) industry. I use the adjective "so-called" because, despite his brief bio at the end of the article saying he was an expert, he was extolling the demise of the AIDC industry. His pen name might as well have been Henny Penny by the way he doled out his "sky is falling" prophecies. Obviously, I was skeptical.
After all, as editor of supply chain technologies for Business Solutions, I talk to the channel every day. I talk to people like Jodi Westphal, general manager of LLT BarCode and Label, a $12 million AIDC VAR. As I interviewed her for the feature story, she wasn't singing the blues about a rapidly declining AIDC market. On the contrary, she's found that not only are large companies continuing to add AIDC technologies like bar coding and WLANs (wireless local area networks), so are very small mom-and-pop manufacturers and distributors.
The AIDC Market Will Weather The Economy
As a writer, I realize it's always prudent to obtain an objective viewpoint concerning a particular topic. Thus, in questioning the state of the AIDC industry, I turned to some recent research from Venture Development Corp. (VDC) (Natick, MA) and Frost & Sullivan (San Jose, CA). VDC's Global AIDC Industry Business Planning Service reports address the bar code printer, stationary scanner, handheld scanner, and portable data collection terminal markets. According to the studies, the bar code printer market is struggling the most compared to the other aforementioned markets. Nevertheless, this market's revenue grew 6% from 1999 to 2000. The remaining markets all posted growth rates between 7% and 11%.
Frost & Sullivan's Worldwide Wireless Local Area Network Industry report projects annual WLAN shipments to reach over 20 million units and exceed $1.5 billion in revenue by 2007. Although prices are dropping for this technology, the research firm cautions WLANs are far from being ubiquitous. The slower speed of these networks (as compared to wired LANs) will initially limit their use to applications requiring mobility and real-time information. Of course, this shouldn't come as a big surprise since many VARs and integrators I speak with are already reaping the rewards of mobile computing. For example, the installation review details how value-added distributor Winncom Technologies created a WLAN that provides marinas with Internet access for boaters. Now that's mobile.
Make Wireless Network Security An Obsession
Sure, we're in an economic slowdown, recession - whatever you want to call it. But one thing everyone agrees on is that there is more data being accumulated and tracked all the time. Therefore, technologies like bar coding aren't going to vanish (much to the dismay of RFID [radio frequency identification] liberals). Similarly, wireless equipment will continue to flourish as companies and consumers alike seek real-time access to information. However, Winncom President and CEO Gregory Raskin notes that no matter what the scope of a wireless installation these days, network security is always on a customer's mind. WEP (wired equivalent privacy), the encryption cipher used on wireless networks, has proven vulnerable to a hacker's attack. But, anyone solely relying on WEP for security obviously doesn't value their network's data. After all, there is no one solution to network security - wired or wireless. Instead, VARs and integrators should design multi-layered security solutions using protocols such as RADIUS (remote authentication dial-in user service) or VPNs (virtual private networks). Be paranoid; your customers will thank you for it.
Listening To The Channel
Unfortunately, maybe paranoia is what drives self-proclaimed experts in a field to predict an industry is falling apart when, in reality, it is merely changing. My job affords me the opportunity to speak with supply chain VARs and integrators who have "been around the block" - guys like Mike Lowry, Tee Migliori, and Tully Johnstone. These veterans know this is a dynamic, ever-changing industry. They see AIDC technologies as constantly evolving but remaining a staple of any successful enterprise. In my mind they're the experts, and I'll take their word on it.