RFID: 'Ready For Industry Deployment' or 'Rosy Fantasy In Disguise'?

Author:Mr Wally Klatch
Profession:Olami Inc

Judging by the amount of ink, both real and virtual, that has been used to write about RFID you would think it is the most widespread, the most useful, the most all-curing logistics remedy that can be found - the business-technology version of patent medicine. One carnival barker after another proclaims its many wondrous benefits wrapped in snappy high-tech verbiage.

Some of the biggest gorilla customers have made their vendors an offer they can't refuse to implement RFID, but for the other 23 million businesses in the US there is some fine print that is often overlooked, if it is printed on the patent medicine bottle at all. The fine print says whether RFID stands for "Ready For Industry Deployment" or for "Rosy Fantasy In Disguise" - is RFID real or fluff, something that can benefit you or just an invitation to a fool's club of people who strive mightily for an objective that leaves little to show in terms of real benefits.

Even more important than this question is a more serious one - is the whole RFID media-spasm a placebo that is offered in place of real solutions that offer real benefits, but that are lost in the tag/reader/active/passive/frequency noise that RFID is generating? If a company focuses on its true needs and looks at available solutions can it meet those needs completely and effectively without ever touching an RFID tag? To use master con artist Frank Abagnale's memorable image from before the 2004 Bosox era, why do the Yankees always win? Because its opponents are always distracted by the pinstripes - when you take your eye off the ball, in either sports or logistics, the result is clear.

RFID Stands For …

A close look at RFID reveals that on the technology curve RFID is more akin to the very first pocket calculators that sold for $1,500 (including four functions - addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division!) than to the do-everything pocket calculators that come in cereal boxes today. The thicket of issues related to RFID starts almost as soon as you approach the topic. There's a webinar-a-week on the hoops you have to jump through to make an ROI case for implementing and operating RFID, and participating in those sessions leads to things you don't read about in the everyday RFID missives. The standards for RFID haven't really been set yet so you can't really know whether upcoming changes will impact your investment - whether the œ" socket you buy today will work with the Ÿ" bolts that will become the standard tomorrow. How...

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