According to a survey of systems integrators, consultants, value-added resellers and manufacturers who have customers in a broad range of industries including manufacturing, health care, communications, real estate, financial services and government, the number of individuals skilled in radio frequency identification (RFID) is small and could impact successful and continued adoption of the technology.

Released by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the survey showed that 80 percent of companies participating in the survey said they do not believe there are sufficient numbers of professionals skilled in RFID to hire from today. Two-thirds of organizations (66.7 percent) said training and educating their employees in the technology is one of the biggest challenges they will face to succeed in the RFID market.

About 71 percent of the survey’s respondents made up of value-added resellers and solutions providers (33.3 percent); consultants and systems integrators (21.6 percent); and manufacturers (19.6 percent); found that customer adoption of RFID solutions is relatively modest. For those organizations with customers that have implemented RFID solutions, responding companies said that fewer than 20 percent of their customers have done so. This can be seen as a market to tap into.

The association, which includes member companies such as Zebra Technologies, Symbol Technologies and Texas Instruments, currently is working with educational institutions and training companies to provide vendor-neutral foundation-level certification in RFID technology. Also active in the push for training according to CompTIA, are product manufacturers, distributors, system integrators and end-user customers.

“About 18 months ago we were approached by organizations active in the RFID market who were concerned that there was a shortage of RFID skilled professionals. Since then we’ve been working with about 20-plus organizations to come up with the CompTIA RFID certification, which is now available as a beta exam,” said David Sommer, vice president and director of electronic commerce at CompTIA.

“We believe the market needs hundreds of systems integration companies with RFID capabilities; and hundreds of thousands of individuals knowledgeable in this technology to meet current and future demand,” he said.

While manufacturers or vendors may provide training on their own products and technology, the CompTIA certification is targeted at individuals with a foundational knowledge of RFID technology and between six and 24 months of experience in the RFID industry, Sommer said.

“We anticipate there are two audiences for this certification: the technology resellers, solutions providers, consultants, etc. who are hired by organizations to do RFID work, and technologists in end-user companies who require in-house RFID expertise to maintain and manage RFID systems once they are installed,” he explained.

According to Sommer, the RFID certification exam covers a range of topics, such as the installation, configuration and maintenance of RFID hardware and device software, including interrogation zone basics, testing and troubleshooting, standards and regulations, tag knowledge, design selection, installation, site analysis, RF physics and RFID peripherals.

So why look into such training? “There is no such thing as ‘RFID-in-a-box.’ Every deployment is different. While the fundamentals remain the same, each deployment is unique because of differences in products, processes and physical environment. RFID remains a finicky technology that can behave differently based on any number of factors, such as the orientation of the tag on the box, carton or pallet; the type of products being tagged; and the environment in which the tagged product is stored. All of these factors can be overcome, but it takes knowledge and experience with radio frequency engineering and design; supply chain management; logistics; warehouse management; and familiarity with RFID products and standards, among other skills,” Sommer said. “The more experienced, trained and certified the RFID team, the better they will be able to overcome these obstacles.”

According to the CompTIA survey, a significant number of companies – 71.4 percent of those surveyed – said their customers have not implemented RFID solutions. For those organizations with customers that have implemented RFID solutions, responding companies said that fewer than 20 percent of their customers have done so.

Similarly, 80 percent of the responding companies said either they have yet to go past the investigation stage of RFID implementation or have done no investigation at all. Sixteen percent of respondents said that they have implemented one or more RFID pilot project for themselves or their customers.