Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Maximizing RFID


RFID (radio-frequency identification devices) have been around for about 10 years. These microchips with antennas transmit data wirelessly and are about the size of the head of a match, up to the size of a business card.

They were initially used for pallet and case control at the distribution level, but we’re seeing them do so much more. More opportunities are on the horizon to drive better efficiencies and revenue.

Last week I had a chance to visit with the Director of ARC, Dr. Bill Hardgrave, a leader in the software development of RFIDs.

In the retail segment, in both the Internet and the bricks and mortar platforms, there is a rush to an “omni-channel” experience. This means being “anyplace, anytime, anywhere” for the consumer,” creating a seamless customer experience in the process. That means lower cost, more revenue and higher profits. All other things being equal, the initiative that can create the best seamless customer experience across all consumer purchasing channels will win.

In order to provide a solid 0mni-channel experience, 4 things are required, all of which can be provided by RFID technology:

  • Maintaining high inventory accuracy
  • Solving out of stock problems
  • Being able to locate product easily
  • Maximizing loss prevention efforts

Dr. Hardgrove went on to offer that, “When one solves those four fundamental challenges, you can start what we’re calling second-order use cases.” These enhance the customer’s experience through things like an interactive kiosk, smart dressing rooms and more. These are things that help retailers differentiate themselves, and it all starts with good data collection.

He also told me about trackers being placed in pallets of fresh foods. This might mean monitoring bananas’ moisture levels and temperature over the 20 days of travel from South America or leafy vegetables as they are shipped from California. RFID ensures a quality delivery which translates to quality product on the shelf.

While RFID technology’s foundation was first retail, I see an infinite variety of uses in the construction and real estate industries. RFIDs are already being used in the tracking of materials or equipment, and this is just the beginning. It all starts with good data collection.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.