RFID lacks consumer appeal

Technology companies intent on selling RFID into the enterprise need to better communicate consumer benefits and ease off on the shareholder-pitched balance sheet savings, according to the CTO of supply chain software vendor Viewlocity, Michael Sherman.

Sherman said while RFID was being rolled out by globally strategic players such as Wal-Mart and the US Department of Defense, there were still privacy concerns amongst consumers because most of the benefits of the technology had been marketed to suppliers rather than end users.

"It has to be related as a consumer benefit rather than a Wal-Mart benefit. Nobody cares about a Wal-Mart benefit," Sherman said, adding that privacy concerns played little role in supply chain environments like the US Military.

Sherman predicted that consumer attitudes will gradually mature over the next five years as customers realised, and became more comfortable, that retailers already collect much of the data RFID will provide.

Customers already hand over loyalty and credit cards for scanning and capturing; people realize that and their attitudes will mature, he said. However, Sherman contended that RFID technology, especially tunnel readers, will also have to improve in reliability before major supply chain players like third-party logistics providers will buy in.

"When you see a forklift in a warehouse going back and forth, back and forth [to try and get a reading], you know that that's just not going to work."

The Viewlocity CTO said he expected a sustained lift in sales for the company throughout the Asia-Pacific region as global customers such as manufacturers integrated their supply chains right back to the point of origin, specifically pointing to Australia, Korea and Thailand as hubs of activity.

The vendor claims Alcoa, Patrick Corporation, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines, Kellogg's, Dell and Nissan as global customers.

Australia's two biggest retailers Woolworths and Coles Myer are currently trialling RFID at a pallet level to track goods within their supply chains. Both declined to comment on what initiatives they were taking to inform customers of either the privacy aspects or consumer benefits of RFID.

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