To Tag or Not to Tag – Is that the question?
This weekend I spent a considerable amount of time searching for a pair of expensive earrings that I misplaced. Not a fun job, especially since I wasn’t ready to write off the value of this asset or to replace it. That’s when I began to wonder — how cool would it be if I could use the Wi-Fi network in my house to keep track of my valuable personal inventory – jewellery, handbags and TV remote control by tagging them. The time I would save from looking for these items could definitely be spent productively on actually enjoying them. While the concept and ROI of using active RFID tags with Wi-Fi networks for personal asset management might not be real just yet, it is definitely picking up steam in the business environment — especially in some key industries such as healthcare where tracking the location of assets such as infusion pumps, EKG monitors etc has saved some hospitals between $400,000-500,000 (for a typical 400 bed hospital) annually through loss prevention, fewer purchases, and labor savings. Manufacturing is another industry where the ROI of using Wi-Fi based location technology becomes very apparent — think of an aircraft or car manufacturer who deals with thousands of parts and needs to know their location in order to ensure timely availability in the final product assembly process. The value of the enterprise WLAN is further increased when it can provide additional asset data such as the temperature, humidity, pressure or motion in addition to the location data. This contextual data enables businesses to not only know where the asset is located but also know its condition, which becomes an important factor if you think of perishable items such as those in the food and beverage industry. Some of the key factors that businesses should consider as they look to leverage Wi-Fi based active RFID tracking include (1) the cost of the tags in relation to the value of the asset being tagged (some estimates are that to justify the tagging of an item its value should be at least 5X the cost of the RFID tag) (2) the ubiquity and reliability of the WLAN and (3) the criticality of the asset data as it affects either the bottom or top lines. A typical Wi-Fi based active RFID solution comprises of active RFID tags, the WLAN and software and services. With healthcare as an early adopter owing to their existing investments in WLAN, according to ABI Research, active RFID tag shipments are predicted to increase to 5.6 million by 2012 at a CAGR of 123%, associated software revenue to grow to over $5 Billion at a CAGR of 12% and services revenue expected to reach over $3 Billion at a CAGR of 12%. As enterprise adoption of Wi-Fi based active RFID solutions becomes ubiquitous, maybe the day is not too far away when this technology will have a positive ROI for my personal asset tracking — till then I guess I have to rely on manually locating my valuable earrings.