On the second day of the Online Summit, a five day online Summit that brings together the world's thought-leaders on RFID, discussion turned to the great potential for RFID to customise goods and services, and the difficulties of quantifying these benefits. Over 150 participants from across the globe are taking part, ranging from solution providers and analysts to RFID users and academics.
"Services that place serviceable equipment, the right information, qualified personnel in the right place at the right time will become the expected norm. Those that can't provide this will lose market share," suggested Steve Quigley, Solutions Architect at TNT. "[The number of] products with built in 'ID' will increase, one key here being standardisation of protocols so that multiple end users can access the tag information," he said.
Delegates agreed that RFID is only one of a number of auto-ID technologies that should be considered. Potential customers need to be receptive to the distinctive benefits of RFID while remaining hard-headed about the business case. "Any ROI behind this is the same as any other form of auto-ID," said Mike Letchford, Business Development Manager EMEA, TrenStar. "Don't consider RFID for the sake of it, but as part of a bigger business case delivering long-term benefits and savings," said Letchford.
"You cannot take RFID as a stand alone solution - Bar Code , Passive RFID, Active RFID etc each has its value, utility and environment for which it is the best system to improve a process," said Andrew Barker, Weapons Systems Active RFID Monitor, Track & Trace.
Nevertheless there can be wider benefits to RFID adoption, and identifying these benefits for a business case can require taking a broad view, it was suggested. "Try getting a set of business users together, experienced across your whole business, so that they think through a solution, the impacts on the business as a complete organisation, not in part. Often the benefits are not in RFID but in the use of the information in a timely manner," said Steve Quigley, Solutions Architect, TNT.
Whether or not privacy concerns are a real barrier to RFID adoption sparked much discussion, with debaters comparing the reception by the public across the globe. Martin Palmer of Essex County Council Libraries noted that members of UK libraries using RFID have received the technology very well while the opposite is true in the US. "There has been very little, if any, public concern about the use of RFID in libraries in the UK and Europe, whereas some libraries in the US - especially in California - have found their plans to implement RFID programmes severely curtailed if not stopped due to privacy concerns."
The fact this was aroused by organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and CASPIAN brought to the forum's surface the potential power of the anti-RFID lobby.
Marisa Jimenez, Public Policy Director, Europe EPCglobal responded: "If not handled properly, public policy issues, such as privacy and data protection could become a barrier in the line of economic or operational barriers, sometimes even beyond that. That is why it is critical to be aware and responsive of public policy issues and address them from the start," she said.
In the realm of standards, the subject of interoperability and the recently released Gen2 standard, defining how to describe items with Ultra High Frequency range RFID tags, was under debate. "The price of tags is still the number one question from most of our clients. Gen2 did bring the prices of the tags down but not the readers," wrote L?szl? R?cz, Chipcard and RFID Advisor for Hungarian company Allami Nyomda.
"'Interoperability' at this time is still only at the tag level," wrote Peter Blair, Director of Product Marketing, Reva Systems. "Gen2 readers from any vendor should be able to read Gen2 tags from any vendor, but readers are not interchangeable because there is no standard for the reader-to-network interface. There is work going on in this area, but this lack of a generally accepted reader protocol standard is contributing to the continued high cost of readers."
The cost of tags is likely to continue downwards, said Bill Eccleston, Robert Rankin Professor of Electronic Engineering at Liverpool University. "Very low cost non silicon tags are now in design, well below 1 cent. Item level could be standard within 5 years. It will happen when the big vendors want it," he said.
The RFID Online Summit will form the basis for a range of panel debates and discussion groups at the forthcoming RFID Networking Forum, which will be taking place on November 9th at the Olympia 2 Conference Centre in London. This event will also see the launch of the RFID Online Summit Report which will provide the Summit debates in full.
The RFID Networking Forum, Europe's premier meeting place for the RFID Community provides delegates with a range of case studies, discussion groups and one-to-one meetings, specific to their industry and application area.
To find out more about the RFID Online Summit and the RFID Networking Forum please visit www.rfidforum.com/online-summit and www.rfidforum.com