All RFID's Men Part II


Deep RFID Part II

Would I protect the identity of Deep RFID, my anonymous source in the shadowy world of radio frequency identification? "Heck no," I replied. "If it's jail time or protecting your identity, you're going down."

Deep RFID laughed. Or coughed. I couldn't tell which. Chain smoking was taking a toll. We were in an underground garage, the secure location we meet in whenever I need to tap his inside-the-mandate perspective. The corner was lit only by the glow of his cigarette. "You know," I said, "it's illegal to smoke here."

"Is that what you came to discuss?"

"No," I said, not wanting to push too far. "RFID rollouts have been underway for nearly a year and no one talks about results. Rumors of all sorts are floating around, but I want the lowdown. What have they discovered so far? What's the good, the bad and the ugly?"

He slowly emptied his lungs and the smoke turned red as it drifted past a dim exit light. Then he laid it all out:

The poor read rates for tags coming right out of the box or off the printer roll has largely been solved thanks to improved tag making, tag handling and tag placement techniques.

The practice of placing tags in void areas to deal with the problem of RF signals getting obstructed by metal or absorbed by liquids helps somewhat, but only on cases and hardly at all on pallets.

Pallet readability overall lags far behind the 90 percent or higher efficiency rates that supply chain champions achieve using current systems, and it's beginning to look like the vision of fast, accurate pallet reading is fading.

As a result, the focus is rapidly shifting to item-level tagging of big-ticket or high-margin products, such as fashion apparel, and items shipped in their own cases, such as appliances, consumer electronics and home furnishings.

There was more he wanted to say, too, about shifting the RFID burden to offshore manufacturers in China and how retailers may be the only link in the demand chain to actually achieve ROI on their RFID investment.

But a car alarm went off, and when I turned back, all I saw was a trail of red smoke drifting past the exit light.

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