Brad Proctor, chief executive of Dayton’s RFID Convergence Center, passed out a dozen access passes to employees of tenant companies last year.
This year, he has passed out closer to 60 — one sign of the local growth and interest in RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, technology. The center serves as an incubator, helping new companies that use RFID get started.
RFID technology involves placing computer tags on nearly anything anyone wants to track and monitor. The tags store important information, such as destinations or expiration dates, that is tracked via radio waves. While something with a bar code needs to be placed closely to a bar code reader, items with RFID tags can be tracked with RFID readers from afar. Sometimes, people don’t even need to be involved in the reading process.
Convergence Center tenants sign 30-day leases and can leave whenever they want, Proctor said. They get help drafting business plans or securing state assistance, such as Entrepreneurial Signature Program funding.
Getting started is one thing. Securing patents is another. But commercializing an idea? Making it a viable business? “That’s going to be the shot heard ‘round the world’ ” for these companies, Proctor said.
Ashish Sharma started Eastern Horizon Technologies with three fellow veterans of NCR Corp. who did not accompany the company to its new Georgia headquarters. His company offers a technology that lets retailers quickly change item prices with RFID, freeing them from dealing with paper or plastic price tags.
Pursuing an RFID enterprise in Dayton made sense, Sharma believes. And being based in a smaller city hasn’t hurt. Neighbors at the Convergence Center have helped the company attract international interest.
“You have the leverage of a network,” Sharma said.
Lincoln Berry III, a founder of RFID Vision in Dayton, helps companies and individuals manage RFID intellectual property. Working with the University of Dayton Design Clinic has helped the firm further technological ideas.
Berry said Dayton sits at the “Goldilocks” level for business and lifestyle — the city isn’t too hot or too cold. The community is big enough to get attention, but not too much attention.
“We’re not dealing with a lot of T-Rexes out there,” Berry said.
Bill Arnold, RFID analyst with ABI Research in New York, is familiar with Dayton and many of its RFID-focused companies, such as Alien Technologies and Avery Dennison. He says RFID is already part of our everyday lives. “One day, RFID will be as ubiquitous as bar codes,” said Mark Roberti, editor of the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based RFID Journal.