Magazine Article | November 19, 2008

Consider Integrator Assistance For Your RFID Deployment

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

When implementing an RFID (radio frequency identification) solution, an experienced integrator will provide invaluable advice.

Integrated Solutions, December 2008

Think of RFID in a restaurant scenario. Companies desiring a seat at the RFID table can order from a vast menu of hardware, middleware, and software components. When you have a meal at a restaurant, you don't place an order with the steak provider, another with the lobster farm, and another with a vineyard. You place an order with the server, and the chef prepares the meal to your specifications. In the RFID world, you can use an integrator much like you would your server and chef in the restaurant scenario. An RFID integrator can listen to your goals and objectives, make recommendations, then design a solution that meets your specifications.

Putting restaurant analogies aside, the role of an integrator has become increasingly valuable as RFID technologies have developed and matured. As technologies grow, they become more advanced and complex. This holds true for RFID. RFID solutions options today, compared to a few years ago, are significantly more complex. With advancements in both RFID reader and tag technologies, as well as the various options available in software, it can be advantageous to lean on an integrator to help you figure it all out. You can do much research on your own, but an integrator can lend real-world, practical advice to your knowledge base. The following are some considerations for deploying an RFID solution:

Complete a readiness assessment. The biggest mistake I see in the implementation of RFID solutions is a completed project done without first performing a thorough site survey or readiness assessment. Site surveys and readiness assessments are critical components of a successful RFID solution because they can detect environmental pitfalls and alternative directions before significant amounts of capital investment have been made. A readiness assessment can also provide middle managers with the information, such as detailed analysis and ROI projections, they need to sell the solution to upper management and get the project approved.

Phase the deployment of your RFID solution. Another common mistake, especially for companies that are new to RFID, is the desire to implement a full-scale solution prematurely. Companies attempting to deploy RFID in the existing infrastructure may want to consider implementing the solution in a phased approach. Oftentimes, companies that introduce the RFID solution in multiple phases learn so much about the technology and business processes in Phase 1 that future phases change dramatically to adjust and make the process smoother. If you choose to deploy a full-scale solution, you miss the opportunity for this learning process and the ability to adjust deployment to maximize the solution's effectiveness.

Develop your RFID solution around a specific goal. This is a specific area in which an integrator can be especially useful. An integrator can investigate your business and what you're trying to accomplish with RFID and help you to develop a solution to meet your needs. When purchasing and deploying an out-of-the-box RFID solution, you may not be able to reach the same level of customization. Integrators have relationships with many hardware and software providers and can combine the various tools to determine what solution will provide the best results for your company. Be sure to choose an integrator with many partnerships. The more partnerships an integrator has, the better your options will be to receive an unbiased, objective solution offering.

Consider integrator experience when choosing one. There are plenty of RFID integrators available to help you deploy your RFID solution. When evaluating integrators, get a clear understanding of their level of partnerships, as well as their integration experience. There are many young companies in the marketplace, but these companies may be just as helpful as more experienced companies. The industry has gone through many transformations in recent years, and a younger company may have experience deploying a more cutting-edge application. The key is to find an integrator with a solid track record.