RFID in the Postal and Courier service
Potential market for RFID
New capability, new services become possible
Why RFID is now the hot topic in this sector
- Appropriate ISO global specifications are now available for very high volume RFID tagging of individual items
- Mandates from retailers are creating a yearly demand for billions of pallet/ case RFID tags (ultimately about 40 billion yearly), reducing the cost of both RFID tags and systems of interest to postal and courier services for similar applications. These use the license free but previously relatively unproven UHF frequency band. This is around 900 MHz, the precise frequency depending on legislature. Of the order of 500 million are being delivered on goods sent to retailers in 2006, this being four times the number of UHF RFID tags delivered to all applications in the previous 60 years. Tag price has dropped to 15 cents or so and 5 cents is promised when billions are bought yearly in about two years.
- At the most used RFID frequency of HF (13.56 MHz), there is now booming usage in libraries, laundries, toys, tickets, cards and many other applications. This has led to value engineering, automation and volume production with prices of RFID tags and systems tumbling down and one billion HF RFID labels delivered in 60 years but the next billion HF RFID labels will be delivered in under two years. Tag price reductions are in prospect here too. Indeed, this frequency is low enough for printed transistor circuits to be an option in 2007 and in mass use as labels by 2015 . These replace the silicon chip, promising one cent price or less for complete RFID labels and eventually (after 2016?) direct printing onto items, just like barcodes today.
- Several companies (Miyake, DAG Systems, SUBTROPIC, Tagsense, UPM Rafsec) now offer or facilitate passive HF tags and systems that work at two to ten meters range and are usually more tolerant of water and metal than UHF, previously the only option for batteryless ie "passive" RFID at these ranges. Using its new HF system based on new Schreiner RFID labels, Intermec even reads metal cases at up to one meter when obscured by other metal cases. Only one year ago, those teaching RFID would say that HF tags, while being by far the most popular type, with over 55% of the market by value, could never work above one meter range and they only achieve one meter in a relatively unimpeded environment.
- For longer ranges (10 meters to two kilometers), tags with batteries are needed and here there is an advance from large devices with large batteries to ones with coin batteries and even many with printed batteries where the RFID tag takes the form of a label that may even act as a recorder of temperature, humidity etc at low cost. There are also new ways of locating things using beams with these active tags and ways of incorporating WiFi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, GPS or GSM for location and communication.
- Postal sorting machinery, fork lifts and other equipment is now increasingly available in RFID enabled form.