Sceptics sidelined in RFID debate

IT heavyweight Unisys has predicted that the turning point for RFID acceptance will be late 2006.

Pilot trials will be replaced with major rollouts which will fuel RFID adoption across industries, according to Unisys supply chain managing partner Tom Zelinski.

"Many of the key building blocks are in place. For example, barcodes are on 87 percent of supermarket items," he said.

"Sceptics of RFID, who see significant technological and regulatory challenges or no return on investment, are wrong.

"The same was true with barcode technology 30 years ago - many in the retail and consumer products industry considered it to be costly, technically flawed, and unnecessary."

Zelinski said cynics will be astounded by the technology's increased maturity and further advances will be rapid as organizations learn to manage the data which RFID generates.

He predicts companies will save billions of dollars in coming years.

According to Unisys, in 2006 the outsourcing of support for RFID infrastructure will increase some 400 percent. The aviation industry is leading the charge to RFID adoption, with industry usage expected to double in 2006 because passive tags can now be used for goods to be carried on airplanes.

The hard work conducted by early adopters such as those in retail, and consumer goods, automotive, life sciences and retail is expected to feed directly onto the shipping and transport industry.

However, SSA Global Pacific region solutions manager Trevor Barrows disagreed, claiming Australia will not see mainstream adoption of RFID until at least 2010.

"The ratification of standards this year for passive RFID scanners (4 watts) is the reason why Australia has been a bit slow in using the technology," he said.

"Until the tags get to the right price, and associated technology is not cheap, RFID will not become viable.

"If you talk to big retailers, the RFID power brokers, they are still cautious about using the technology and Australians are waiting for counterparts around the world to really understand the ROI.

"Next year will see some adoption in Australia and New Zealand but it won't be industry-wide until 2010."

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