RFID Moving Toward Mainstream

I recall about 5 years ago when Wal-Mart sent out a mandate to manufacturers that all products feature RFID tagging. I’m sure most of you have heard of, or perhaps have experienced RFID technology at some point in time. It’s the data technology that allows a scanner to locate and pick up information from a chip that’s embedded in something, sort of like a bar code that does not need to be exposed. The technology has become ubiquitous on many toll roads (chip placed on windshield) and in high-security clearance areas (chip placed on worker badges) to streamline security and traffic control.

But it has been used on precious few other applications, until recently. I had a chance to chat with Rich Bravman, president and CEO of Intelleflex, a company that specializes in RFID technology, in particular with applications that read large amounts of data over longer distances (greater than 15 meters). He told me that RFID is “Crossing The Chasm,” to quote the famous technology evolution book by Geoffrey Moore, and will be affecting product distribution and tracking in a wide range of new industries, including agriculture.

In the years since Wal-Mart’s announcement, RFID seemed to go dark for a while, a time when it was a technology in search of a problem to solve, says Bavmann. Today, providers are looking for industries with particular problems that RFID might be able to solve.

In ag, Bear River Supply in California has implemented RFID tagging to monitor and track equipment, and it’s reaping clear benefits. “Using Intelleflex’s RFID solution we now have real-time visibility and better control of our assets, and expect to see a positive ROI within the first planting season — in less than 5 months.”

Bravman also shared a specialty crop harvest management solution that Intelleflex has developed using enhanced RFID technology, which you can find out more about on its website located here.

I’ve approached RFID with some hesitation because of the lack of adoption in ag, but with a clear example of success and what would seem to be a better approach to markets from the RFID industry, it would appear that now might be the time to give it another look.

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