Their peers in other industries may be kicking back their heels and enjoying the summer lull, but not those in the thick of the struggle to advance RFID education and research. They've been on the job from dawn to dusk, judging from the flurry of announcements regarding RFID research and education issued in June and July.
At least some of the activity is a response to a looming shortage of supply chain professionals with expertise in various aspects of RFID technology. In a recent survey of Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) members, 80 percent of the respondents indicated that professionals skilled in RFID were already in short supply. That problem is expected to worsen in the next three to five years, when an estimated 60,000 businesses will face RFID mandates from their trading partners.
To help fill the gap, a committee of RFID experts has been busy developing a new certification program, CompTIA RFID+, which will validate candidates' expertise and skills in areas like installation, maintenance, repair and upkeep of RFID hardware and software. That project advanced to its next phase last month when CompTIA announced that it had launched an online survey designed to gather input from an expanded field of industry experts.
To participate in the CompTIA RFID+ Blueprint Survey, potential respondents must have experience in RFID technology, such as installing and implementing RFID systems. The survey is available online at: http://repeto.com/RFID.
Though the CompTIA RFID+ certification program won't begin until late 2005 or early 2006, other educational opportunities are available right now. For example, DeVry University's Center for Corporate Education announced in July that it had begun offering both day and evening courses at its Arlington, Va., and North Brunswick, N.J., campuses. The first to be offered is a 30-hour foundation course that focuses on providing business and technology professionals with a basic understanding of RFID. The courses are being developed in cooperation with the Cambridge, Mass.-based RFID Technical Institute (RTI). A series of advanced and vertically specialized RFID courses are planned.
The programs offered by DeVry University and CompTIA are aimed at professionals already working in the field. But schools in the business of educating graduate and undergraduate students are hardly sitting on the sidelines. They're busy both creating RFID education programs and building sophisticated research labs where students can gain hands-on experience. For example, in June, Texas A&M announced that it had found a corporate sponsor for its new RFiD2 Laboratory. GlobeRanger, a provider of RFID, mobility and sensor-based solutions, has provided its iMotion platform to the new laboratory to help students learn about RFID as well as gain hands-on experience with the software infrastructure needed for applying RFID in a real-world environment. The lab has already started a research project using RFID to manage Texas A&M's Cadet uniform inventory and track the 32,000 parking permits the school grants each year.
June also saw the official opening of the University of Arkansas' $2 million RFID Research Center, a sub-unit of the Information Technology Research Institute at the school's Sam M. Walton College of Business. The laboratory will primarily conduct research into the most efficient use of RFID and other wireless and sensor technologies throughout the supply chain, with special emphasis on the retail supply chain.
The center's director, associate professor Bill Hardgrave, says that it's a multidisciplinary effort within the university, drawing on academic expertise as diverse as engineering, agriculture, law and political science. The center also draws on the financial, technical and business acumen of its 24 sponsors—including one in its own backyard: Wal-Mart.
consumers aware, but still wary, of RFIDThe fourth wave of the RFID Consumer Buzz study among 8,400 consumers shows consumer awareness of RFID continuing to climb. In the most recent survey, conducted in June 2005, 43.6 percent expressed some familiarity with the technology, a big leap from the 28.2 percent recorded in September 2004. As its profile rises, RFID technology's reputation appears to be improving as well, with two respondents pronouncing it "a good idea" for every one who says it's "not a good idea."
Concerns that retailers would use RFID information for more than product tracking decreased this quarter as well. Compared to previous quarters, when 67.0 percent were somewhat or very concerned about information being shared without their permission, just 58.7 percent voiced concerns about privacy in the most recent survey.