Magazine Article | December 1, 2005

RFID's Driving Force

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

The RFID (radio frequency identification) market is driven by capitalism. That's why you'll get the hardware, software, and services that you demand.

Integrated Solutions, December 2005
There's no altruism in the RFID market.

That's not being cynical. It's being factual.
And this fact has to be considered - and weighted heavily - when you determine your company's long-term vision for the smart label technology. You can rest assured that technology vendors consider this fact when they develop the RFID-related products and services they offer to you.

Many technology vendors are working to make RFID a beneficial technology. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make the technology pervasive. Reaching this end goal, however, is not the task of some current day Manhattan Project or race to the moon. It's driven by capitalism. That's a good thing, if oft overlooked.

What type of mobile RFID readers will your company need today and in the future? How you answer that question will largely determine the reader(s) that will be available to you. If the outcry to the vendor community is for a handheld RFID reader that handles only a single frequency, that's the product that will be manufactured and marketed - a 13.56 Mhz reader and a 915 MHz reader, for example. If, en masse, end users demand a multiprotocol reader, then that's the product that will be delivered to market. The ultimate mobile reader will address what Intermec's Scott Medford calls, "Just make it beep." In other words, you'll get a mobile reader that will read any RFID tag and any bar code symbology. All of the technology exists to produce this type of unit. But, is this what end users want?

At the end of the day, product developers have to report to CEOs who are responsible to shareholders. Private companies have a similar reporting chain that ends with company investors. In either case, technology vendors are not going to spend millions on product development on the chance that enterprises will purchase large volumes. The product must come in response to demand, as opposed to demand flowing in response to the product.

This is where the end user community will play such a significant role in terms of how technology vendors continue to market RFID products and services. Face it, you're not deploying RFID for any altruistic reason. (You're either being mandated to deploy or see a significant competitive advantage or savings by deploying the technology.) So, what products do you need from RFID manufacturers in order to realize your company's vision? By answering that question, you'll be influencing the types of products that hit the market. Ultimately, these products should meet your demand. If end users clamor for a multiprotocol mobile reader with bar code data collection capabilities, vendors won't be offering point-specific, single-frequency RFID readers.

Since Wal-Mart and the DoD announced their RFID initiatives, there has been plenty of activity. This isn't to say that there have been plenty of hardware and software sales - actual sales, that is. Instead, there has been positioning. Real sales will actually follow. And these will go to companies that listen to end users and develop products that meet their needs.