Thursday, May 18, 2006

RFID Panel Post-Mortem

Last night's RFID panel discussion went very well. Tony Imbriaco of iAnywhere Solutions opened with an excellent overview on the technology that included a wealth of real-world examples of how RFID is providing real value to business.

The panel I moderated took that discussion closer to ground level, with each of the panelists offering greater detail on various elements of RFID deployment, including network level infrastructure, readers and edge devices, necessary intelligence, and integration into end-user environments.

Of course the privacy issue was on the minds of the audience, who wanted to know what was being done to protect patient privacy in healthcare and consumer privacy in retail settings. Similar inquiries came in related to Viisage's combination of RFID and biometrics in their border security products.

It all underscored what I've known for a long time: not enough is being done to educate the public on the critical issues related to RFID (and biometrics and other technologies).

There was a healthy audience, especially in consideration of the rains and flooding that have affected the Merrimack Valley and a great deal of coastal New England this week. Kudos to the organizers for putting on an illuminating event.

Observation: I still believe strongly that the greater good available through RFID is being obscured by the protests of a vocal minority, but I also believe that companies involved in the development and marketing of RFID need to change their approach to discussing the subject.

Too often, technology companies seem incapable or unwilling to convey concepts in non-technical terms. Industry lexicon, jargon, acronyms, and cliche are the order of the day. It doesn't have to be that way.

Translation of complex technological concepts into Plain English is not difficult. Illustrating ideas with analogies taken from everyday examples is a must. Even if the communication is intended for an industry audience, this approach will help establish clear communication as a habit.

I think the panel took a step in that direction last night, but as an industry there is a long way to go.

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