The High Price of
Tagging Items"> One problem plaguing RFID implementations has been the relative high price of tagging items, because of tag prices and availability. Lazo thinks that will change in the coming year, with tag prices generally coming down, and volumes coming up. To this end, Symbol has increased its tag production capacity for the coming year to the tune of 400 million tags.Click here to read about IBMs scratch-off RFID tags. Through a partnership announced Dec. 14, Symbol and Vue will jointly develop integrated item-level RFID software for retailers and manufactures. "One of our readers today drives four antennas," said Lazo. "There are hundreds of shelves in a retail store, so [installing a lot of readers] is cost prohibitive. View provides a way to connect more than four antennas that you can install on the shelf, and have it be driven by more than one reader." Under the terms of the agreement, Vue will combine its RF Networking technology and EPC (Electronic Product Code) management software with Symbols RFID fixed and handheld readers, tags and peripheral devices. The resulting platform is expected to expand the reach of RFID from traditional pallet and case-level distribution applications to winnowed-down store shelf applications that focus more on on-shelf availability around product categories, according to a Vue press release announcing the deal. At the same time, Symbol is taking the knowledge it has gained to date around reader technology, and applying that to "every conceivable reader point," to develop new solutions, according to Lazo. "What do you do about developing a solution around a forklift," said Lazo. "[You develop] a solution that goes beyond individual components. At the dock door, we looked at that and said, what would rugged-ize that solution and make it more easy to deploy? We created the DC600 [Portal System]. Were doing the same around forklift and other reader embodiments." The forklift application is expected in the first half of next year. Symbol is also working on getting out Gen 2 compliant readers, and will offer a handheld version in the first quarter of next year. Sun offers item-level RFID for pharmaceuticals. Click here to read more. Additional feature and performance improvements around Gen 2 tags are also planned. One example is duel dipole technology that will be incorporated into Symbols tags that will enable tags to cover more orientation area and provide better read rates, according to Lazo. There are, however, still some challenges around RFID adoption to overcome. "Return on investment and cost, as it relates to ROI is something we continue to work on," said Lazo. "Also, standardsso there is a single worldwide standard for tagsare important." There is also the question of a basic business case for RFID to overcome. Asked if there were any signs of full production RFID implementations in the works, Lazo answered frankly: "Not really." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.
At the same time, the company is building out functionality with Vue Technology that will enable users to essentially network readers across a physical spacea move that will bring the cost of implementing an RFID infrastructure down.