July 29, 2010, 4:54 PM — For the retailing industry, the adoption of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology this decade has been one long, strange journey: Periods of irrational exuberance followed by times of great frustration and confusion; expensive pilot projects riddled with technical, standards-based and cost complexities; and a widespread belief among those retailers or CPG manufacturers that were forced into the RFID universe that it is a technology solution in search of a problem.
"This isn't Microsoft Office. It's not something you can put on a disk and install," says Dennis Gaughan, a managing VP in Gartner's enterprise software research team. "You're bridging the physical world and bits and all sorts of environmental considerations that impact the efficacy of the technology. There's no cookie cutter approach, like other technology deployments."
First off, price points on tags, hardware, software and RFID expertise have become more palatable. In addition, many of RFID's infamous roadblocks--such as managing wireless signals, resolving back-end IT and supply chain integration problems, and grasping those immutable laws of physics--have been cleared.
And as they've gained greater understanding, retailers have become more precise at formulating business cases in which RFID deployments actually create true business value: making processes more efficient, cutting down on theft of high-value merchandise, and attaining insight into inventory levels never seen before.