RFID has succeeded in industries such as retail, Devlin says, because the technology has proven itself in meeting specific business cases for retailers, such as tagging some of the more expensive goods in stores to avoid theft, keeping tabs on inventories and even managing distribution networks. Retailers can see fully commercial systems and the returns that early adopters are achieving, he says.
Some retailers, such as companies that sell apparel, footwear and jewelry, "have been tagging for two or three years and we're seeing volumes [of tags] increasing now," Devlin says. "It seems to have proven the return on investment." He points out, however, that even in the retail industry RFID adoption has not grown at the rate people were expecting.
Many companies that have considered implementing RFID, including retailers, did not realize how much integration work was needed or how long the integration would take, Devlin says. "Within a large chains of stores you are not going to have the same IT infrastructure" among all the stores, he says. "And if you're going to put RFID in place it has to be uniform across" all the stores.
One reason why expectations have been high for the technology is that some RFID product companies have attracted venture capital groups of investors, who have talked up the market, Devlin says. "It's maybe partly out of hope, partly out of expectation or maybe some hype," he says.
But as many companies and industries continue to go through a learning process with RFID there will be more clarity in terms of how the systems work and how much they cost, and a better understanding of the business cases and expectations of what RFID systems can deliver, Devlin says.
Roberti thinks what needs to happen from a technology, cost and standards standpoint in order for RFID to gain some significant traction in the U.S. depends on which sector you are talking about.
Healthcare, for instance, needs to determine a standard for real-time location systems, which use tags and readers to determine the specific location of an object or person within a particular facility such as a hospital.
"Other industries, such as apparel retail, have essentially agreed that EPC Gen 2 [EPCglobal UHF Class 1 Generation 2] is the technology to use," Roberti says. EPC Gen 2 is an international standard being developed by EPCGlobal an organization created to achieve worldwide adoption and standardization of Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology.
"In general, I would say that software solutions need to mature to the point where they solve specific business problems or deliver clear improvements," Roberti says. "Then, early adopters must prove the solutions deliver business value."