Visiting RFID Journal Live and IEEE RFID 2010 conferences

RFID Journal Live 2010 conference took place in Orlando, FL April 14-16 luckily just before the volcano in Iceland made the traveling from and to Europe impossible for a while. IEEE RFID, Auto-ID, and Aerospace RFID conferences were co-located with the RFID Journal event. The IEEE conference was very much into the technology itself as RFID Journal is more a business oriented conference and show.

I estimate that the RFID Journal had less than thousand participants. To me it seemed that there were about 600 people listening to the keynote speeches, but, the exhibit area was even more crowded . The amount of exhibitors was roughly 150. In the IEEE RFID there was about 100 participants.

Three of RFIDLab FInland Association member companies Confidex, UPM Raflatac, and Voyantic were exhibiting their products and solutions. Ekahau who is participating in our Visible Patient Flow project was also present as an exhibitor. I asked several exhibitors if they saw more professionals or end users visiting their booth. My conclusion based on these discussions is that the visitors in the exhibition hall were 70% professionals who work for RFID solution and technology providers and 30% end users seeking for information and solutions for their businesses. Then again, we must remember that these various RFID companies do need each others and networking that takes place in this event is extremely valuable. For example Voyantic sells measurement equipment for tags and their customers are exclusively other RFID companies. Confidex and UPM Raflatac manufacture tags and they need RFID integrators.

The Koreans had their own pavilion consisting of 12 companies. The Korea Association of RFID/USN had organized the joint effort. I discussed with several companies in the pavilion to find out their primary reason for participating under the Korean umbrella and it was always the same – lower cost. The Korean association has about 240 member companies working with radio frequency identification and ubiquitous sensor networks. There are some similarities to our own Finnish RFIDLab Association and we are also currently working on joint marketing effort in some exhibition for our members.

The IEEE RFID keynote speaker was Vivek Subramanian, Associate professor, Uinversity of California Berkeley. He is also technical advisor in the Kovio company and professor in Korea. He addressed the printed RFID technology trends and outlook The conclusion taking into account the technology and the cost was that in the near term printed electronics is good for embedded passive components such as antenna, inductors, and capacitors. In the intermediate term it can be used for low cost displays. In the log term the huge potential is in sensors. Simple tags consisting of antenna, some passive components and less than 1000 transistors will make sense. He pointed out that compared to well matured dominating silicon technology the printed electronics will be cheaper per unit area, but, not cheaper per function. The state of the art of signal handling capacity in fully printed electronics is now around 10kHz and 10-100 transistor circuits work reasonably well. Low cost will mean hybrid solutions instead of fully printed electronics. He stressed that printed electronics should be exploited in the system level and the ecosystem support is needed.

In the IEEE conference session Confidex gave a presentation on embedded passive UHF RFID seal tag for metallic returnable transit items. Kaij Nummila from VTT discussed UHF RFID based tracking of logs in the forest industry.

The opening keynote of the RFID Journal was given by Carlo K. Nizam, Head of Value Chain Visibility and RFID, Airbus. Airbus seemed to be very committed to apply RFID based on various cases from warehousing to digital view of the factory. The main point he made was that you can’t improve what you can’t see. Airbus will be using RFID as business radar to help build a digital fly by wire view of the supply chain and its business operations.

Brigadier General Michelle Johnson discussed how Department of Defense is actually running an enormous logistics chain that enables the operations such as Afghanistan or Haiti earthquake relief effort globally. DoD believes in passive RFID.

Motorola also believes in RFID was strongly pointed out by Mike Poldino, VP & General Manager, RFID Division. He thinks what once happened with bar codes will happen with RFID too. He presented that RFID vs. bar code will result in 4%-21% increase in sales, 2%-5% decrease in operating costs and over 70 times improvement in counting efficiency!

One very interesting breakout session presentation related to RFID in retail was given by Bill Hardgrave, Director of RFID Research Center, University of Arkansas. Their analysis suggests that the big four benefits are inventory accuracy, no out of stocks, locating a product, and loss prevention. RFID vs. bar code results in 96% reduction in labor to cycle count.

I think RFID Journal Live 2010 with the co-located events was an useful conference. It gave a very good understanding of the state of the art, gave some metrics, and provided useful networking opportunities. Most people just want to participate one RFID conference in a year and this might very well be that conference.

Jukka Wallinheimo

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