The RFID Workforce: A Gold Rush Ahead

A new report from RFID Tribe says workers will be needed to support a burgeoning technology.

By RFID Tribe

Editor's Note: Trade association RFID Tribe has released a 40-page report — “The RFID Workforce: Mining the RFID Technology Gold Rush” — to provide a clear picture of where people work, how they innovate, the challenges they face and the roles they play in RFID technology.

RFID technology standards and intellectual property issues rated highly in top concerns among the RFID workforce. RFID professionals hold most of the nearly 5,000 RFID-related patents. These stakeholders expressed concern regarding the treatment of RFID intellectual property in the marketplace.

Mark Johnson, RFID Tribe president said, “The RFID Workforce Report investigates the challenges and issues that RFID technology workers face. The report offers insight into the RFID workforce, provides conclusions and predicts its future direction.”

The report's Executive Summary follows.



Executive Summary

RFID Tribe created this in-depth report on the RFID workforce – the first report of its kind. This report describes those individuals taking advantage of an emerging technology – radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

The RFID industry is currently undergoing rapid development and explosive changes. Market research firms predict the market for RFID products and services will reach $7 billion range by 2008. And with mandates from both major retailers and government entities, many more companies are expected to embark on the RFID technology journey. Similar to the California gold rush, many see the opportunity, join the market and stake their claim in the RFID technology landscape. Some will discover success, while others will find success elusive.

Despite the industry growth and increasing adoption of RFID technology, information regarding the RFID workforce is lacking. Data is scarce regarding the people heavily involved in RFID technology - the RFID workforce. Information about the people working with RFID and information about the workforce driving the industry is just as vital as information about the technology itself.

The RFID Workforce Report contains ten year forecasts (2005-2015) sizing the RFID workforce by geographic region, by segment and by function from its current size to its growth to over 1.3 million individuals by 2015. The report addresses the broad spectrum of the RFID workforce from vendors, end users, academia and the government segments. The report includes 22 charts, graphs and exhibits. The report contains a list of 330 RFID vendor firms. It also includes footnoted references to secondary research.

The RFID Workforce Study used a survey tool to collect RFID workforce data. 103 individuals responded to the survey and provided input regarding the RFID workforce. RFID Tribe conducted follow up interviews to clarify answers provided and to collect qualitative information. RFID Tribe also used data from the RFID Talent and Career Center found on RFID Tribe’s website.

The RFID Workforce Report paints a picture reflecting the unique perspective of those involved with RFID technology. The report provides a clear picture of where people work, how they innovate, what motivates them, the forces (market, social and economic forces) driving them, the challenges they face, their concerns and the roles they play in RFID technology. The report evaluates the landscape for RFID training, learning and skills certification of the RFID workforce. The RFID Workforce Report investigates the challenges and issues that RFID technology workers face. The report offers insight into the RFID workforce, provides conclusions and predicts its future direction.

Mandates drive staffing

Mandates from large organizations drive RFID staffing. Wal-Mart, Target, Albertsons, Best Buy, Tesco, United States Food and Drug Administration, United States Postal Service and the US Department of Defense (DoD) have issued mandates regarding the implementation and use of RFID technology in their operations. These large organizations have much to gain optimizing their operations using RFID technology. Additionally, these large organizations hold significant power to drive their suppliers towards RFID technology use.

For example, there are an estimated 43,000 suppliers to the United States DoD who will begin seeing RFID technology requirements included as part of their new DoD contracts. The DoD began placing RFID requirements in contracts beginning in January 2005.

Wal-Mart’s RFID mandate to tag products shipping from its top 100 suppliers by January 2005 had a significant impact on the RFID workforce in 2004. RFID implementations by Wal-Mart’s top suppliers did not happen as one “big bang” in January 2005. January 2005 was the beginning phase of the first Wal-Mart RFID shipments. The January 2005 date marked a significant industry milestone and signaled a definite direction in the retail supply chain. Bear Stearns, an investment securities firm, estimated costs for RFID compliance at Wal-Mart’s top 125 suppliers at $502.5 million. Bear Stearns made the estimate in January 2004. This equated to $4 million per supplier.

A report issued in January 2005 by Incucomm, a technology incubator, indicated that firms spent less than the $4 million per Wal-Mart top 125 supplier estimated by Bear Stearns. Revisited “after the fact“, the actual spending came in much less at an estimated $.5 million per firm. In the report, many Wal-Mart suppliers (47%) had a “do-it-yourself” internally developed project rather than retaining the services of an integrator such as Accenture, BearingPoint and other systems integrators.

This lower spending may be attributed to Wal-Mart’s top suppliers’ reactions: a) supplier needs to hold spending to a minimum and b) some suppliers not fully complying with the Wal-Mart RFID mandate. Some suppliers RFID tagged a few SKU’s of their product shipments to Wal-Mart. This deferred spending may signal that more spending will occur up to the estimated $4 million per vendor mark in the Bear Stearns report.


To comply with RFID supplier mandates from large organizations, suppliers to those organizations invested in human capital through direct staffing, consultants or systems integrators.

For more information or to purchase the entire report, visit www.rfidtribe.com.

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