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AIM's New Aim

Written by Ed Hess, Executive Editor, Integrated Solutions Magazine

The RFID (radio frequency identification) mandates from Wal-Mart and the DoD (Department of Defense) have everyone taking action. The two behemoths are busy outlining compliance specifications and implementation timetables. Suppliers are scrambling to understand the smart tag technology and how it will affect their businesses. And vendors are jockeying for position as they look to capitalize on what appears to be a quickly emerging and lucrative market.

It all seems reminiscent of a time when bar code compliance came into being. Mandates were handed down, and suppliers struggled to understand what was then black magic. During this time, AIM, the global trade association for data collection technologies, rose to the fore to provide education and promote standards and technology. The organization's annual event, SCANTECH, thrived. As time went by, however, people became educated, products became packaged, and AIM's mission became less clear. RFID has refocused this organization.

RFID Education Takes Center Stage
After serving a much too long stint as interim president, Dan Mullen finally assumed the mantle of president of AIM Global in the fall of 2003. A few months later, the AIM board was reconfigured. On the heels of that change, AIM enlisted the help of two long-time industry consultants and insiders (Andrew Carey and Jane Yallum) to promote a series of organization-sponsored seminars throughout 2004. The first two-day seminar will happen in March in Atlanta and is titled "Emerging Opportunities: RFID Technologies and the FDA Bar Code Rule." The first day of the event is dedicated to VARs who resell and implement RFID solutions. The second day is devoted to end users who are now up against project and mandate deadlines. All of the seminars in 2004 will follow the same format, while topics will shift to focus on a different aspect of RFID and data collection.

RFID, Bar Codes Must Profitably Coexist
Make no mistake, these AIM-sponsored seminars will not be enough to return the organization to its previously lofty status among vendors and industry leaders. However, it's a good start. And it parallels AIM's rise to prominence in the traditional data collection space. RFID and bar code technologies are certainly complementary, so AIM brings a bundle of expertise and history to the table. By leveraging those assets, the organization can again assume the chief role of a primary educational resource for data collection and RFID.

Headlines might scream that RFID will replace traditional data collection technologies. They're wrong. RFID will work hand in glove with the tried-and-true methods of today. The challenge for end users is to keep the best of the past while it integrates new technologies. As an organization, AIM faces the same challenge.