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Skilled labour shortage hampering RFID adoption

By Kirsty Barnes , 10-Jan-2007

Radiofrequency identification (RFID) tag adoption will be hampered by a lack of a skilled labour force that is adequately trained to handle this new technology, research reveals.

As a result, most businesses will not be ready to deal with the large growth in RFID adoption predicted over the next few years, warns the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a vendor-neutral organisation that develops RFID curriculum and training programmes.

According to research commissioned by the CompTIA, more than 75 per cent of technology companies surveyed said that there is not a sufficient pool of talent in RFID technology to hire from-and 80 per cent of those respondents said that the lack of skilled labor will hamper the adoption of RFID technology.

 

"It will take several years before there are enough RFID-trained staff to cope with increasing demand. Until this time, RFID growth will be held back," Dave Sommer, vice president of e-Commerce at CompTIA, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.

 

In response to the results of this and prior CompTIA studies, Sommer said the organisation launched an RFID Certification program in early 2006 in order to validate an IT professional's foundational level knowledge for RFID implementation, and attempt to address this issue.

 

"CompTIA is working with industry to prepare for more widespread adoption of RFID and we are now seeing a huge push towards training for 2007 as companies begin to recognise the skill shortage problem," he said.

 

The total North American RFID market for manufacturing and logistics is predicted by Frost & Sullivan to grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 20 per cent and the growth in this field is being driven by a number of factors.

 

"RFID technology is becoming standardised - ultrahigh frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID tags are generally now being accepted as the norm - and the hardware is also becoming interoperable, where different tags an be read by the one reader," said Sommer.

 

In addition, the economics of the once cost-prohibitive technology are finally improving as manufacturing volumes are increasing.

 

"A typical tag and antenna now costs between 10 and 17 cents to make. Two years ago the cost was two to three times more than this," said Sommer.

 

"If manufacturing volumes continue to increase we could see these prices also continue to significantly decrease."

 

Due to the improved return on investment, Sommer said he now anticipates "a great deal more product adoption over the next one to two years."

 

The pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is now the second largest adopter of RFID technology, with 18 per cent of suppliers and 14 per cent of customers in this field now piloting or using RFID, according to 580 respondents in a 2005 CompTIA survey.

 

This industry is particularly sensitive to security issues within the supply chain and therefore potentially has a lot to gain from this track-and-trace technology and many pilot programmes are now underway or have already been completed.

 

Some of these companies are already adopting RFID for part of their pharmaceutical production and distribution on a widespread basis - Pfizer, for example, is using RFID to track-and-trace its precious Viagra supplies in the US.

 

According to Sommer, however, how far this adoption will continue will largely depend on the lead taken by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

"The agency has a vested interest in the uptake of RFID and has been vocal on the issue so far, although it has not followed through by releasing any regulations," said Sommer.

 

"Until this happens, widespread RFID adoption in this industry will not happen, largely because pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors all operate independently, and therefore this industry does not have the big drivers of mass RFID adoption that other industries such as the retail sector has, with corporate giants like Walmart, Tesco and Target leading the way."

 

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