Gaining Clarity on Auto-ID & Sensing Solutions

E-mail Tom Coyle

It's finally happening. The market for visibility solutions is starting to soar, albeit several years after the abundant hype by "expert" prognosticators. Research analysts recently scrambled to revise estimates of the rate of adoption skyward. Today sensors, cameras, radio frequency identification (RFID), bar codes, and a variety of visibility viewing platforms are commonplace throughout the working world.

RFID gained notoriety at the turn of the millennium. Excitement about the "Internet of Things" led to experts envisioning widespread adoption of RFID to track elements of the physical world coupled with ubiquitous connectivity to the Internet to distribute data and view information. While there have been many successful deployments of RFID, successes have been overshadowed by hype and unrealistic projections.

RFID has grown at a steady but unspectacular pace over the past few years. But why has gaining traction taken so long? There are a number of reasons, including the high cost of ownership, unclear performance and value, reliability issues, and lack of skillful implementers, to name a few. The great news is that year after year the barriers are tumbling away as great strides are made in improving the core technologies and surrounding systems. Implementers today are more skillful than ever. Now the market seems to be growing at a much greater rate. Instead of niche applications in closed-loop settings, solutions are now being deployed in open-loop trading systems involving millions of items and assets.

Even with the recent upturn in adoption, today's end users await visibility and sensing solutions that achieve the best of all worlds: low-cost RFID and sensors, a low-cost reader infrastructure that has the ability to saturate areas and achieve slot-level precision, plus supporting systems capable of exploiting these ubiquitous digital identifiers and sensors.

The governments of a few nations, such as South Korea and China, recently invested hundreds of millions of dollars underwriting the commercialization of these technologies. These countries recognize the need to be in a leadership position in the electronics and wireless device industries. Government-supported investments in these technologies are not only good for job creation and economic growth, but also for the many applications critical for national defense. The New England region of the U.S. is a world center of expertise for automatic identification, sensing, and microelectronics with several hundred of the region's companies and universities having relevant expertise.

Where there were only hundreds of vendors ten years ago, today there are thousands of companies with wide ranges of offerings in Auto-ID and sensing. Although there's been much progress, end users are confronted by an overwhelming number of questions. What to buy? What's good? How to install the systems? How best to integrate? How much? Will it disrupt existing processes? End users desperately seek clarity about these and other questions.

People gain clarity in many ways: by reading trade magazines, attending conferences, joining industry groups, hiring research analysts, viewing and testing solutions, and much more. While there is broad debate on the subject of Auto-ID and sensing at the MIT Enterprise Forum, there is a clear consensus on the need to provide first-hand interaction with players and products in the industry. As a result, we organize monthly topical events as well as one large annual event because we believe that seeing is believing!

On October 13, 2010, the Second Annual Auto-ID & Sensing event spotlights many of the key initiatives involved in making Auto-ID & sensing systems and components smaller, cheaper, faster, and better. There will be more than twenty exhibitors and world-renowned speakers at the event with the intent to provide attendees with first hand interactions with products and solutions, to hear from expert end users and solution providers, and to simply have a day of networking with others interested in the Auto-ID & Sensing space.

  • Keynote speaker Chancellor Marty Meehan of UMass Lowell will address how to leverage nanotechnology for the next generation of Auto-ID & sensing solutions


  • Craig Casto of The Dow Chemical Company will speak about leveraging Auto ID Technologies to enable work processes across the corporation.


  • Mark Russell, Vice President of Engineering, Technology & Mission Assurance at Raytheon Corp. will provide the Viewpoint address. Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems.


  • Chris Hook, Vice President of RF Controls introduces an Auto-ID technology and system which achieves accurate, automated, real-time location and tracking of standards compliant, passive UHF RFID tags in 3D.


  • Peter Collins, President of A2B Tracking Solutions will speak about Item Unique Identification (IUID)—where it stands and where it's heading.

In addition to the exhibitors there will be three panels on timely topics: Investing in Auto-ID & Sensing Solutions; Marketing Successes and Pitfalls; and Auto-ID & Sensing Implementations.

Please join us for a day of education, knowledge sharing, and relationship building on October 13, 2010, for the 2nd Annual Auto-ID & Sensing Expo, sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum, Merrimack College, and UMass Lowell. The event is open to all. Please register at:

Tom Coyle is co-chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum Auto-ID & Sensing Solutions Group. He can be reached at 781-290-7468 and [email protected].

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