From The Editor | August 23, 2007

RFID: Change Of Plans

The RFID (radio frequency identification) industry has benefited from a couple of major trade events. Recent developments signal a significant change.

Integrated Solutions, September 2007

The trade event industry is no different from any other in terms of its competitiveness. Driving attendance, coordinating speaker schedules, and creating compelling agendas are year-long processes that all culminate in a make-or-break, two-to-three-day event.

For the most part, all of these efforts are similar from event to event, from year to year. So, it's unusual to see a radical change from an established event. But, that's just what happened in the RFID industry last month.

By way of a little background, there are two main RFID events: RFID World and RFID Journal Live! (EPCglobal's annual conference is significant, but can't be fairly compared to the other two aforementioned events.) 'World' and 'Journal' have traditionally been spring events separated by a few months. In 2008, however, both events were scheduled to take place in Las Vegas at the same venue (MGM Grand Hotel) within about 30 days of each other. Attendees and exhibitors at both RFID events in 2007 openly questioned the rationale for these scheduling decisions. They clamored for answers, but few were forthcoming. In an industry where few issues can unite competitors, this one did. Top industry vendors drafted, signed, and sent a letter to the RFID World management, expressing their concerns and suggesting changes.

All of this hand-wringing brings us to a press release issued by RFID World, signaling that the event would, indeed, move from its previously scheduled spring date to Sept. 8-10, 2008. (The location has remained the same.) The move has to be welcomed by both the end user and vendor communities. It gives the industry two distinct events, separated by two quarters. This allows enough time for product development and announcements to be unveiled at both events. It allows each event to cover advancements in the previous six months, instead of both events focusing on the current state of the industry. It's a rational move that will benefit all stakeholders in the industry.

In addition to the date change, the press release also signaled that RFID World will co-locate with Interop in both 2009 and 2010. (RFID World and Interop are both produced by CMP.) It's a bold, strategic move, and only time will tell if it will pay off for RFID World. However, it's in line with the historical progression of trade events.

Large, technology-specific trade events have a shelf life. If the technology is truly valuable, it will be integrated into enterprises and eventually best be covered by vertical- and application-specific events. For instance, look at events like Internet World and ScanTech. Both were huge, technology-specific events. Now, neither event exists. The technologies are on display at retail, supply chain, healthcare, and  a myriad of other events. Conversely, if the technology isn't widely integrated into the enterprise, then the large trade show that it supports will dwindle to a niche event.

And, here we are with RFID. If the technology becomes pervasive, does an RFID-specific event still have relevance? History shows us that it probably won't. But, no one knows when that time will occur. No one knows the date when vertical and application events will render a much larger event irrelevant. One thing is certain: We'll all have a better opinion of RFID World's move in two years.