Like me, I am sure you’ve come across some of the recent articles around why ‘broad adoption’ is taking so long to happen. These articles essentially hint that although RFID a promising technology, it has failed to keep up to it’s promise due to it’s cost and complexity.
Some of these examples include:
– RFID in 2010: Will Anyone Care (Who Doesn’t Work for an RFID Company, That Is)?
– RFID Makes Slow And Steady Progress
– If the Delivery Guy Drops Your Package, Senseaware Updates You Online
While I do not necessarily agree with some of the proposed reasons for the slow pace in adoption (ex: integration with existing LoB systems), this healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing… in fact a very good thing!
Surprised that is coming from a RFID software product vendor? Well you shouldn’t be – there’s more to this than it may at first seem. At the end of the day, a very small % of these deployments are actually succeeding in production and I believe this is due to the the large number of moving pieces and skills required to ‘pull it all together’… in other words, the real problem this industry faces can be boiled down to one word – Execution.
To elaborate, I can see why this might be happening having been on different sides of the fence. Working at Microsoft on the team that developed the RFID platform gave me strategic knowledge and deep insight into how some of the larger companies think about integrating RFID into their environments; My current job at S3Edge gives me a front row seat and tactical knowledge of the rapidly evolving hardware innovation and a deeper understanding of the day-to-day issues that a RFID deployment would need to address to be deployed successfully. My take on this has been documented and discussed in detail in my previous posts, namely:
Michael Dortsch’s statement, “(RFID) technology is complex and costly to implement, requiring investments in the chips (ultra-high-frequency tags still run more than 7 cents apiece), readers, software, and new business processes ” is largely true because of the fact that there have been a proliferation of custom solutions and ‘packaged’ s/w offerings that are hardly configurable or easily customizeable. To date, most of the solutions that are in the market are custom developed from the device-layer up, and these solutions result in high risk and high on-going support costs, which in turn ‘is ‘hindering’ mass adoption… leaving the end-user with something that looks (unfortunately) like this…
Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom – there are RFID solutions out there that, with a little bit of planning and thought, can help you execute efficiently and effectively.
The most crucial step to ‘success’ is to engage with a software team with deep domain and systems expertise (hardware and software) that understands how to deploy scalable enterprise applications that are closer to the device than the LoB app. In other words, successful RFID deployments are about deploying a scalable software + hardware system that informs the enterprise application of real-world asset movements and helps control / enforce asset operations while being easily configurable and customizable . This approach is fundamentally different from trying to boil the ocean from day 0 with supply chain visibility across various trading partners, as change in process at the same time as change in technology is almost always a bad idea. Another important aspect often overlooked, from an overall successful execution standpoint, is the ability to deploy and manage software on the handheld device while is critical to the success of the overall solution. This is done via instructions to the mobile worker via hand-held / forklift terminal applications in concert with audio / visual cue’s like alarms and lights, while supporting synchronization of data across intermittently connected environments.
In summary, there are a variety of close loop applications focused on hard ROI (namely elimination of errors and increased productivity / operational efficiency due to the utilization of the technology in question (aka RFID) – applications that are adding real value to an organizations short-term and long term goals vs.. being an overhead (put in a different way: Something that the CFO would gladly sign a check for based on hard $ returns) – But it all starts with the small but perhaps the most important detail of identifying the right team that can well, … Execute 🙂
In my next post, I will discuss the scenarios and the ROI our early adopter clients are seeing in the vertically integrated manufacturing arena (close loop discrete manufacturing + ware house ops scenarios) – stay tuned and as always send me any comments / thoughts that you may have on the above, or content you’d like to see more of here.
Until next time,