RFID: A long and winding road

RFID: A long and winding road

THERE’S a lot of hype around radio frequency identification - RFID - and a lot of gurus pushing the technology with evangelical zeal, but is it really the way of the future?

Walker Datavision mobility solutions mana-

ger Campbell Scott says his company is in the business of selling data capture technology.

Scott says while there is a considerable level of interest, many potential customers find the costs outweigh the benefits.

“At the moment companies are finding it’s too expensive to implement or they want to run a pilot trial,” he says.

While the RFID market isn’t mature enough for Walker Datavision to pursue it as a core strategy, Scott says the technology is an obvious extension and will eventually take off.

“It’s a real solution, it’s just not commercial yet. It will happen but will take about 18 months.”

IBM has committed heavily to the technology and now has over 1,400 consultants, engineers and researchers in its RFID community.

Will Duckworth, IBM Wireless leader Asia-Pacific business consulting services, says the market in Asia-Pacific is moving from education through pilots to full rollout.

“Globally retail is the driver but there are regional differences. In Taiwan and Korea it’s manufacturing, while in New Zealand the interest is coming from primary industry,” he says.

IBM IT services is currently consulting to around 300 businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, many in the SME market. Services run end to end, beginning with consulting and integration services through to middleware software and hardware sales.

Brent Menzies, IBM NZ Wireless practice leader, says there are plenty of opportunities for resellers in infrastructure, software and data servers.

Duckworth says the technology is maturing at the same time costs are coming down and he predicts broader industry adoption this year to include pharmaceutical, chemical and logistics.

“We’ll start to see real value from real implementation and there’ll be more of a shakeout as the hype backlash drives demand for business value.”

He says there is increasing pressure to define global standards quickly, requiring industry collaboration for clear, open standards.

While the dream is for every item to be tagged, Duckworth says there needs to be a strong business case built around it.

“Technically, all the amazing things are feasible - like the smart fridge - but many don’t make a business case.”

Director of Hewlett-Packard’s RFID programme Ian Robertson says this technology will change the way business is done on this planet. “I’ve been fixing supply chains for most of my life so it’s pretty hard to get me excited - until this,” he says.

HP is piloting with large retailers around the world and Robertson says there is no substitute for knowing what’s really going on in the supply chain at a detailed level. He says the cost of readers has come down considerably in the last two years, meaning a business doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to see results.

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