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Isn't The RFID Bandwagon Full?

Written by Ed Hess, editor, Integrated Solutions Magazine

Each year, Integrated Solutions magazine acts as a media sponsor for a number of industry events. And 2004 was no different -- well, it was a little different. OK, a lot different.

In January of this year, there were a handful of RFID-centric (radio frequency identification) events. By March, that number rose steadily. By May, every event had an RFID component. And, vendor-sponsored Webinars and regional seminars popped up across the country. If end user education was needed, then school was definitely in session. At least it appeared to be in session.

With every major technology wave comes a "me, too" reaction among vendors, event promoters, and industry magazines. These aren't bad people looking to make a quick buck on what appears to be a rising technology star -- well, most aren't. Most of these entities simply recognize an opportunity and are looking to capitalize on it. It's good business.

Lots Of Hype, Little Help
As an end user company with a tight technology budget, however, be careful with whom you entrust your faith and dollars. RFID technology and compliance developments have brought forth a host of new technology solutions and solution providers. At the same time, this market is filled with the "me, too" players.

In this space, right now, don't be surprised to find out if you're talking to an "RFID hardware provider" that doesn't have any RFID hardware to provide. There are plenty of vendors that are long on concepts and prototypes, but very short on actual products. A vendor once told me that end users should always have a PO (purchase order) number at their disposal. Tell vendors you have a PO number and ask when you can get the product. That's a defining question.

Oh, by the way, you're likely to hear vendors throwing around a phrase that sounds something like "EPC [electronic product code] compliant" hardware or software. Here's a bit of advice for you: Currently, there is no such thing as "EPC compliant." Several UHF (ultra high frequency) specs are under review that will comply with Wal-Mart and DoD (Department of Defense) initiatives. Until the final version is approved, claiming to be "EPC compliant" is simply words on a piece of marketing collateral.

For many years, Integrated Solutions has covered the RFID market in all its forms -- low frequency, high frequency, active, and passive. You can trust that we will continue to cover the evolution of the technology and the potential revolution it brings to some industries.