The annual show in Orlando has the familiar feel of a technology show with everyone speaking in acronyms about platforms and wearing their best corporate wear.
While the education track remains strong as ever, I always take the pulse of a show on the exhibit floor. It’s where you can judge the innovation and excitement in the industry. Are there thick knots of attendees blocking the aisle around booths try to get a glimpse of a new product or better understand a technology? Is there some splash that offers a vision of the future and points the direction for the whole industry?
The vibe at this year’s show is, well, flat. Don’t get me wrong, there is good traffic in the halls but the word throngs do not come to mind. Several familiar exhibitor names from past years are missing here in Orlando. There is certainly enough to tease an Auto-ID tech wonk like me but it's pretty clear that the bandwidth has shrunk and honestly, this comes as no surprise. As barcode technology matured and the big shows like Scan-Tech receded into the rear-view mirror, it wasn’t that the technology had become unimportant, but rather, it had settled into a standard. No need to do a big show when the industry had consolidated and it became clear who were the winners and losers. (Dare I say, survivors?) It feels like RFID is suffering a similar fate but with far less universal accomplishment that barcoding.
It’s been 25 years since I encountered my first RFID tag but it remains a specialty application – expensive and non-standardized. In that same time interval, bar coding became a must-have technology in industries from retail to blood banks. More importantly, its relevance has been sustained across generations of hardware and platforms.
Maybe I’m wrong about where this technology stands. It retains its promise of a superior solution for tracking assets but maybe the industry is recognizing that it has come up short on results. It still faces challenges and could evolve into a go-to solution but I have my doubts. I always look forward to this show with expectations that something new and significant will be announced. Or maybe I should just admit that it’s a great excuse to go somewhere warm after another brutal Chicago winter.