Flattening the RFID Adoption Curve

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When it comes to RFID, a little bad news may actually be a good thing.


A recent ABI Research report, in which the firm scaled back its 2007 revenue projections for RFID revenues by 15 percent, may not be what vendors like Symbol Technologies wanted to hear. However, users should be heartened by the reasons for the decline: a consolidating market, more collaboration among vendors, more off-the-shelf RFID software from which to choose and improved RFID project planning.


Also on the horizon as early adopters quickly migrate to the the so-called Generation 2 of the technology: more standardization, improved integration and, cha ching, lower prices. Costs will continue to drop as more companies buy RFID gear.


Yet there's still that niggly matter of a business case. Some of the early results from RFID pilots have shown the technology can reduce shrinkage of expensive items like electronics, help retailers keep items on shelves to maximize sales and increase supply chain visibility from manufacturing facilities to warehouses to stores.


But an executive at Unilever North America, an early adopter, categorizes RFID as "still immature." The real value will come when users figure out how to leverage all of that RFID data to tweak their business processes and improve the customer experience.


We're optimistic. Vendors like IBM are eager to help folks figure it out.


Yet with RFID, as with any technology trying to go mainstream, you really can't rush the adoption process. As a strategist from Retail Systems pointed out to us in a recent interview, RFID appears to be following a trajectory similar to the bar code, which took nearly 30 years to become the ubiquitious technology it is today.