Magazine Article | January 1, 2005

RFID's Inevitability

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

RFID (radio frequency identification) isn't going away. Admitting this fact is the first step to successfully deploying the technology.

Integrated Solutions, January 2005
Ed Hess

We're just beyond Wal-Mart's highly publicized January 1 RFID (radio frequency identification) deadline. And, there are just as many questions now about the technology as there were 12 months ago. Granted, the questions are different. At this point, no suppliers are asking, "What does RFID stand for?" The questions today demonstrate a high level of education among the end user community in the year. Many are engaged in discussions about standards. Others are still trying to work through realistic business cases to justify a deeper investment in RFID beyond the slap-and-ship model that serves only to keep Wal-Mart as a customer.

For most end users, however, general questions about the technology have subsided. For them, the most pressing -- and obvious -- question is simply, "How do I get started?" The top 100 suppliers tackled this issue on different terms in 2004. They had a year to get educated and to become compliant. For the bulk of suppliers, however, 2004 was a year to read and observe. These suppliers will have all of 2005 to deploy RFID technology in some manner.

I chaired a session at RFID Link ( at the end of 2004 and heard Michelin's Dr. Pat King, PhD, sum up his company's implementation strategy in a couple of sentences. And, for the crowd in attendance, it was practical and apropos. "I wake up each morning hoping to find that RFID technology has gone away," stated King. "Then I spend the rest of the day preparing for its inevitability."

The message of RFID's inevitability shouldn't be taken lightly. It means that there is no sense in delaying RFID-related projects. You can spend all of 2005 discussing how to get started with the technology. It's time, however, to simply get started. Set aside some money to purchase a reader and some tags. Carve out some labor resources within your company to start working with the technology. Dedicate some square footage in your warehouse or DC (distribution center) to see how the technology reacts in your environment. You'll learn a lot of RFID through this hands-on approach. More questions will be raised. But, the answers will help to advance the deployment and not be part of a theoretical meeting room discussion.

There are many ways to start with RFID technology, but the point is to actually start. Once you begin working with the technology, you can envision future conversations with the CFO on justifying an expanded use of RFID. There will be further hardware and tag costs. And, the subject of integration costs will certainly not be a short discussion. But the cost to get the technology in your hands right now is relatively low compared to the cost of falling further behind the RFID curve.

It makes no sense to debate the merits of the technology any longer. It's time to start using it and learning first-hand lessons. Sure, you'd like to adopt RFID on your terms and time frames. But, if the adoption of the technology is inevitable, then you're better off embracing it than fighting it.