Interview on the RFID Industry with OCR Canada Ltd
1. Brief Company Profile
OCR Canada Ltd. is a recognized industry leader in the delivery of effective solutions for mobile computing, barcode scanning, wireless infrastructure, and RFID. After 30 years in the data collection business, we have been the recipient of over 60 industry achievement awards. Our greatest strength is in our staff of industry and technical experts that have serviced more than 6,500 customers around the globe. Our history of innovative Automated Identification Data Capture (AIDC) solutions is supported by our customer references and awards from leading manufacturers and business partners. We continue to assist companies to gain competitive advantage by utilizing our broad range of RFID, barcode and wireless LAN equipment and solutions to increase operational efficiency ,decrease costs thus providing business vale.
2. When was your company founded and what is the approximate employee size
OCR Canada was founded in 1972 and as our name would suggest we were pioneers in Optical Character Recognition technology where it all began evolving into a Hardware , Software and Services provider.
3. What are some major challenges that RFID technology will be able to address in the near future?
When one thinks of the early challenges in Rfid , acceptance. skepticism, lack of education, cost of technology, lack of concrete success stories and standardization to name a few , we can be proud of the significant progress that has been made since that time. I ‘m more inclined to believe that some of these earlier challenges are still today’s challenges . I think we need to move forward with optimism with continued education primarily at the C Suite level of management and convince them of the business value of Rfid adoption. In addition, It wouldn’t hurt to have a few more mandates possibly from Government and other entities like we saw earlier in the Retail Sector to increase demand. More mandates could be one of the main driving forces behind growing interest in the technology.
There are hundreds of applications for Rfid, cross industry which will continue to address the challenges that exist today. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) will continue to evolve as a major technology for tracking goods and assets around the world. For the supply chain and manufacturing it provides increased levels of product and asset visibility. In Healthcare, hospitals are seeing the benefits of tracking and locating expensive equipment more quickly to improve patient care. Retailers will continue to use the technology to automatically receive shipments, manage inventory levels and have greater visibility into their business than ever before. Yesterdays challenges around supplying an end to end solution consisting of Hardware , Software and the business transformation that will occur are no longer as challenging as they once were. More standardization, product evolution and a more sophisticated and knowledegable customer base will lead toward more success stories which is always a major ingredient for market growth.
4. Where are we in the life cycle of RFID investing and development
That’s always been an interesting question and one that is never easy to answer. Back in 2003-2005 when I worked at IBM in the Rfid Sensors and Actuators Group ,we saw a respectable amount of investing and development around solutions from the larger entities that wanted to lead in the Rfid arena. Unfortunately. there was an overinflated set of expectations attached to RFID during those years but the hype was not without substance. Adoption was slow, due to many companies not fully understanding the benefits or Business Value derived from an Rfid implementation. We were all hoping to capture a good portion of the market opportunities but it never came. Then for several years after, analysts and Rfid vendors alike were speculating on when adoption rates or the inflection point would occur. I can ‘t say that we are anywhere close to reaching those numbers . I do however see an upsurge in interest from the SMB marketplace and more budget dollars being allocated exclusively to RFID technology or applications built around data capture.
My own opinion, I think over the next 18 months we’re going to see alot of interest and more implementations which the market will embrace and will be necessary to get to the next level . Today we see both large and smaller companies actually doing productive things with the technology because they are far more educated , investing money and resources in the technology and are remaining committed to it.
5. Do you see any specific industries or geographic markets that will propel demand in RFID technology over the next 3 years?
We all can see that the Healthcare Sector seems to have embraced Rfid in the last few years and many companies seem to want to focus on that Sector. Warehouse and Distribution, Supply chain and Work in Progress visibility in manufacturing seems to be picking up steam. Back in the earlier days of Rfid it was the large Tier 1 companies that were dipping their toes in the Rfid pool and seemed to have some budget to throw at small pilots but what I have seen from the SMB marketplace is encouraging. The smaller tier 2 & 3 players are now starting to notice how Rfid can provide value to their operations and are embarking on small pilots or POC’s. When we recover from the recent economic downturn, I think that Retail and parts of the Industrial Sectors will fuel an even greater demand for Rfid. That combined with the improvements in UHF tag design and the further reduction in HW costs should drive demand. North America remains as having great potential but Europe is still ahead of us in the adoption curve.
6. How do you see the entire RFID marketing shaking out over the next few years? How big is the market opportunity?
How the Rfid market shakes out is equally a tough call. I think there will continue to be a consolidation of companies that currently occupy this space. The recent economic downturn really brought this to light. Adoption has not yet reached the point where all the companies in the early stages that entered the market hoping to capitalize on the adoption of Rfid can survive. The determination of just how big the Rfid market opportunity is has been a sore point with vendors for many years. I really don’t know how to predict what the market is going to look like as it has expanded so slowly and then there’s the consolidation that I spoke of earlier, at least with regard to what companies will still be around. If we believe the Analysts the addressable market is very large. However we can’t forget the past and must learn from the earlier promises that never came to fruition. We must be optimistic but remain pragmatic about the future of Rfid when speculating on market size.