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RFID companies still not ready for growth, says expert

Posted: 14 Dec 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RFID? RFID tag? CompTIA? RFID market? radio frequency?

The RFID market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent over the next six years and several factors are coming together to ease adoption of the technology. Still, many businesses aren't ready to deal with the growth, according to an expert with the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

Frost & Sullivan recently reported that the total North American RFID market for manufacturing and logistics is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent over the next six years. Yet, about 75 percent of the technology companies responding to a CompTIA survey earlier this year said there aren't enough people trained in the field. Eighty-percent said they believe that a lack of talent will hinder RFID adoption.

David Sommer, VP of e-business and software solutions at CompTIA, who speaks often about the looming shortage of RFID-trained workers, said that many factors are converging to promote RFID growth, but companies must focus on training workers to make sure the technology will work for them.

Global standards, interoperability, and declining prices are working in favor of rapid adoption, said Sommer, who worked with more than 20 organizations to develop CompTIA's professional RFID certification program. Sommer said he does not believe that there is a "magic number" for calculating when the cost of RFID technology will be low enough to trigger widespread adoption.

"We've seen where the tag itself, the semiconductor with the antenna, has gotten down to the 10- to 17-cent level," he said during a recent interview, adding that the prices vary depending on how companies deploy the technology. "The costs are continuing to decrease to the point where they are becoming very attractive."

In 2007, consumers will begin seeing more RFID tags on individual items. They will appear on higher-end electronics and pharmaceuticals before they make it into everyday products, he said.

"You're going to see them on expensive items, things that are easily counterfeited," he said. "It will be a ways down the road before you see it on the item level on something like toothpaste. It's a question of time and economics."

Eventually, when RFID is used in personal items such as clothing, retailers are likely to use technology that allows consumers to have the tags "killed" at checkout counters.

First, companies must train or hire people who have mastered the technology. "Few people understand how to tag goods to make sure they're readable and how to configure readers in order to make sure they work," Sommer said.

He urges training for technologists deploying solutions, for solution providers, and for users. CompTIA offers an international, vendor-neutral certification program to measure technologists' ability to install, maintain, repair, and troubleshoot for hardware and software functioning. It also offers links to certified training and test-taking resources.

- K.C. Jones

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