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RFID a 'technical blunder', report says

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Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a technology bubble ready to burst according to a new report by Dublin-based firm Heavey RF.

The firm, which provides radio frequency products such as handheld scanners, has published a study entitled RFID.Bomb?

"History is littered with large technical blunders; RFID in the supply chain is potentially one of the biggest," said Ronan Clinton, managing director of Heavey RF.

The report claims that RFID is unlikely to replace bar coding as a means of identifying goods. Heavey RF carried out the study after receiving several queries from clients wishing to deploy RFID in their business.

"I'm fed up with companies telling me they want to implement RFID in their business," Clinton told ENN.

RFID uses computer chips to store information. The benefit over conventional methods of tracking items, such as barcoding, is that comparatively large volumes of data can be stored in a tag and line of sight is not necessarily required to scan the item. Industry journals estimate the global RFID market could be worth $7bn by 2008.

The technology has hit the headlines lately with Galway-based RFID firm Aonta Technologies being purchased by a German firm earlier this month. This was soon followed by Heathrow airport in London announcing a trial of RFID.

Clinton, though, urged Irish businesses to not believe the hype surrounding the technology.

"It is almost heresy to question the RFID bandwagon, but we produced this report as I can see worrying parallels between RFID and the dotcom hype. There is a risk that Irish retailers are being railroaded into a technology that is too costly and does not work," said Clinton.

"We've done RFID implementation for some clients but pretty much 99 times out of 100 companies don't need it," he said. "Firms need to ask themselves one question 'Am I Wal-Mart?'"

The Heavey RF study argues that technical restrictions and cost mean that RFID will be unable to replace barcode technology. The report claims that while costs will come down there are too many different types of RFID tags required to make it a viable replacement for barcodes.

"A lot of company executives are going to seminars and hearing how great [RFID] is so they decide they want it for their business," said Clinton. "They forget the technical requirements of RFID and once they see the overall cost the project is shelved."

Clinton urged companies to stick with using barcoding until RFID proved itself to be a cost effective technology. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.

© 2007 ENN

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