RFID takes off - big time
Jan 21, 2008 Dr Peter Harrop
Zebra Technologies has recently bought several impressive RFID companies, putting over $300 million on the table and, with $500 million in the bank, it is clearly poised to do more. In different RFID sectors, Assa Abloy buys at least one RFID company every year. Inside Contactless has just raised $38 million to boost its effort on RFID enabled mobile phones with the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer Nokia leading the group of investors. Clearly RFID is taking off - big time.
Leap forward in HF RFID
Consider High Frequency RFID. This is the main focus of spending on the technology, with ISO 14443 tags and systems responsible for about ten times the order value of any other contestant. It is not strongly promoted and it is widely believed to be a mature technology with little improvement ahead of it. Yet HF RFID is taking a huge leap forward thanks to a string of technical breakthroughs in 2007 and 2008 that sharply increase range, multi-tag reading and tag cost and size. These advances also promise lower cost tags and lower power readers to the point where battery operated miniature readers become commonplace. In each case up to a factor of ten improvement is seen - there is nothing incremental about these advances. IDTechEx has encapsulated this in a new report HF RFID - the Great Leap Forward.
Active RFID rapidly gains ground
Active RFID is a particularly hot sector of RFID, with tenfold increase in sales in prospect over the next ten years powered first by Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) on people and assets then Ubiquitous Sensor Systems (USS) with some merging of the two in state of the art, ultra low cost radio mesh networks. Locate and track everyone and every asset in a hospital? Monitor forest fires with a billion tags? Print RFID tags on paper? This and much more is in prospect and many radically new approaches make new markets feasible, including boosting the batteries with photovoltaics that works off both light and heat.
For example, Ultra Wide Band RTLS has an unmatched combination of accuracy even in 3D, avoidance of multipath and other interference, multi-tag reading at very high speed and penetration of walls. If the current growth of UWB RTLS continues, it will dominate the RTLS market within a few years. However, as the RTLS market reaches the billions of dollars level, there will be a place for many other exciting new RTLS technologies just about to hit the market and many giant corporations are seeking to enter the business. As predicted, recent additions to the IDTechEx RFID Knowledgebase of over 3100 RFID projects in 101 countries involve an increasing percentage of active RFID projects. Incidentally, this is by far the world's largest searchable database on RFID in action. It automatically generates graphs of such things as distribution of frequency used, active versus passive, tag shapes employed etc. by country.
Startling new innovations
RFID is at a very interesting stage, with huge investment and huge innovation such as silicon chips with the antenna on the chip yet long range, Surface Acoustic Wave RFID has been newly installed in the International Space Station because of its superlative performance and safety. Several types of RFID without the expensive silicon chip are about to hit the market, some with one hundredth of the cost and the capability of direct printing, avoiding the cost of applying a label.
The conference that covers it all
The world's leading conference on RFID smart labels, active RFID, and their systems is called "RFID Smart Labels USA" and it takes place in Boston 20-21 February 2008 www.IDTechEx.com/USA. All of these new advances will be analyzed. A substantial exhibition, investment forum, visits to best-in-class local RFID facilities and optional Masterclasses will once again bring the subject alive. Delegates will receive access to the RFID Knowledgebase of over 3100 projects for a limited period of time after the conference.
Little wonder that huge users and potential users will be speaking about their progress and needs for the future. They include LG, BP, Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark, Ford, Chep the world number one in pallets, International Post Corporation, the US Army, the US Food and Drug Administration, Boeing and - for the world's airlines - IATA and SITA. They will present full lectures and you can get to meet them. This is not a matter of a brief appearance in an unscripted panel discussion. Organizers IDTechEx do things the traditional way with unmatched value for money. Indeed, independent analysts such as Baird will present in addition to analysts IDTechEx, so projections can be compared.
Cards, China and Japan
With over 40% of the RFID business currently involving cards, it is very relevant that the world number one in cards and, for that matter RFID passports and some other sectors, Gemalto, will present its latest advances.
China spent the most on RFID tags and systems in 2007, mainly driven by cards, so Chinese technical experts will explain what comes next because that surge has given Chinese RFID manufacturers an edge that is little appreciated in the West as yet.
Huge takeoff in RFID phones
Forty million people in Japan now have RFID enabled phones and there is a pretty clear road map emerging to when one billion or more people have them. These phones will be to the Near Field Communication ISO global standards and employ an active RFID reader in the phone that can act as an active RFID tag when on and a passive one when off.
IDTechEx has written the definitive report on this program as a huge number of trails of many innovative NFC benefits are mounted across the world and the haggling about who keeps the profit comes to a close. Many new NFC phones will shortly hit the market. The IDTechEx report "RFID Mobile Phones and Contactless Smart Cards 2008-2018" comes to the interesting conclusion that both forms of RFID will prosper. Those phones will emulate some payment and access cards but will not significantly affect national ID cards and other versions and even in finance, the payment methods will coexist. RFID tags in buildings and many other locations will be monitored by the phones enabling a plethora of added value services to be lucratively provided. The conference thoroughly explains this from several viewpoints. All will be revealed from companies such as LG, Motorola and Nokia - the biggest cell phone manufacturers in the World.
Register early for the best saving and over $3,500 of IDTechEx research - see www.IDTechEx.com/USA for full details.