Usually, year-end columns look back on the high points of the previous 12 months. And, there have been enough of those to have merited such a column. However, there have also been more than enough lingering misconceptions that I’d like to see the end of, once and for all. So, here’s a list of my pet peeves for 2007.
1. RFID will replace barcodes. Right. Just like the airplane replaced the automobile. (Anyone remember the “future” forecast back in the 1950s when everyone had a flying car and roads were obsolete?) Same thing with barcodes. In fact, 2007 has seen more new barcode symbologies proposed or approved than in the last five years combined.
2. There are no standards for RFID. Oh, please. There are hundreds of standards. It is fair to say (as an excuse for not pursuing it) there is no “single” standard for RFID, but there is still no “single” standard for barcodes, either. True, EPCglobal has not yet announced the Gen2 HF (high frequency) standard, but companies are already offering compliant tags and equipment. So, it’s not a lack of standards that’s holding RFID back. It’s a lack of vision.
3. There is no ROI for RFID (aka RFID is too expensive). Well, okay, this one is true if you’re doing slap-and-ship or minimal compliance. In that case, RFID is just a great big pain in the bottom line. Of course, the same was true of barcodes in the early days. And, if you think the costs and challenges for RFID are greater than they were for barcodes, remember that PCs were just being introduced back then (with all of 128-640k of memory), and a lot of those systems had to be run on mainframes. And, infrastructure was equally lacking.
4. Fingerprint scanners can be fooled by Gummi Bears. Yes, it’s true: Older types of devices can be fooled by duplicating a finger ridge pattern (with latex, Gummis, etc.) but newer devices (I use the term “newer” loosely, since some have been around for several years.) look at the veins beneath the surface of the finger. That means you can’t just duplicate a fingerprint or, as Hollywood would have you believe, cut off the finger of the security guard to get into the Secret Lab with all the Really Good Stuff.
5. RFID tags can carry computer viruses. Right: a full-blown virus encoded in 96 bits (or fewer). Say, do you think we could get Microsoft to hire those hackers to reduce the bloat of the Windows operating system? Sigh. Didn’t think so. Anyway, it is true that clever programmers have crashed RFID readers by encoding unexpected or corrupted data. Is that an RFID problem? Or, is it a lack of forethought on the part of equipment programmers?
6. A Code of Ethics is needed for RFID. Here, I agree completely. And, so does EPCglobal, AIM Global and a host of other organizations who have already published Best Practices, Policy Statements, and the like. Maybe what’s really needed is for reporters looking for a catchy headline on a slow news day to do some basic research so they can point to those policies and guidelines in their articles.
7. ROI is impossible to find these days. If you’re wearing blinders, maybe. Look for synergies—like the company that replaced its wooden pallets with plastic ones with integrated RFID tags (because of the benefits of plastic pallets, RFID was a bonus)—or look for benefits that might accrue in other departments. Yes, it’s a radical thought, but it can work.
Okay, that’s my rant. Here’s wishing everyone a safe, joyous, and misconception-free New Year.