RFID - Larger Orders and More of Them
Feb 08, 2008 Dr Peter Harrop
The quintupling of the RFID market in the next ten years is being driven by larger orders and more orders every year. On cue, in January 2008, the US system integrator Affiliated Computer Services landed an order for $500 million to upgrade the non stop tolling RFID system in New York. Two years ago, just replacing one third of the active RFID tags on the New Jersey Turnpike called for $26 million of business and we shall see much more RFID in transport in future. Indeed, ACS has also just announced a large order for an RFID ticketing system in the city of Riga, Latvia, placed by Rigas Satiksme. ACS will design and implement a smart card-based ticketing system using contactless cards and tickets for Rigas Satiksme's fleet of 460 buses, 322 trolleys, and 252 tramway cars. ACS and Rigas Satiksme will then operate the system under the city's oversight.
"The citizens of Riga will benefit from the most advanced ticketing system in Eastern Europe," said Leons Bemhens, chairman of Rigas Satiksme. "ACS' technology and business expertise will enable Riga to implement and operate a world-class system."
The new contactless system replaces the current paper-based ticketing system. However, chip based tickets are targetted for early replacement by printed transistor-based tickets of much lower cost as we discuss later.
Of course, high reward often comes with high risk so servicing huge orders for RFID in transport can be an activity best done by large companies. Also in January this year, transport card system integrator ERG of Australia identified its losses to be approximately A$250 million from the NSW Government's termination of its Tcard RFID contract, and it is considering legal action. ERG announced that it had only received approximately A$13 million from its A$350 million 2003 Agreement with PTTC to install and maintain the Tcard over ten years. ERG says it has successfully delivered similar programs in San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other cities.
Here comes the Chinese supplier
Chinese suppliers, such as Huahong Microelectronics and Watchdata Technologies, have joined ACS in rising up the top twenty RFID companies in the world. They are now targeting exports, having built a very strong home base. Last year's story was the size of Chinese demand for RFID on the back of city cards and the $6 billion national ID card scheme but those are now largely complete and attention returns to the USA which will probably regain its position as the world's largest RFID market in 2008, with deliveries against that ACS order, the Savi Technology $425 million military order and much more besides.
New sectors are also coming alive in the USA. For example, BP, the oil major, has 50 RFID projects being progressed at any one time - mostly in the USA. Its "cookie cutter" approach means that a successful RFID project is then duplicated across the world. One example is the successful use of the new Ultra Wide Band RFID for the most accurate, interference free tracing of personnel in three dimensions to optimize evacuation in emergencies. It has successfully installed this in its Cherry Point Refinery in New York. Time Domain, Multispectral Solutions and Ubisense are leading suppliers of UWB RFID. Ubisense, as an example, only started as a business five years ago yet it now has over 220 clients.
The leading conference gives the global picture
The leading conference analyzing all the opportunities is RFID Smart Labels USA 2008 on Feb 20/21 and it takes place in Boston USA . See www.IDTechEx.com/USA. Once again, IDTechEx has scoured the world for best in class organizations to present, from BP, Boeing, Nokia, Coca-Cola, Kimberley Clark and Ford to BGN Selexyz which is the world leader in tagging books in bookshops and Gemalto the leader in smart cards and e-passports. IATA covers the boom in RFID in the air industry, Savi Technology - the leader in military and heavy logistics - and the US Army cover those vibrant sectors and International Post Corporation explains why their sector is also hot and what comes next.
The huge advance coming in HF RFID
A highlight this year is how the traditional HF RFID, responsible for over 50% of all money spent on RFID, is about to take a great leap forward with improvements of ten times in chip cost, multitag reading, reader power economy and much more besides, even the traditional range limitations being spectacularly breached. The many, often little known, companies driving these startling new technical advances will all be speaking - Kovio- replacing the silicon chip in ticketing at a fraction of the price, CRT, Magellan, FAS, APT and more, this being leveraged by TAGSYS, for example, pioneering the new EPC HF standard and the advent of NFC RFID enabled mobile phones that will be sold in billions - HF of course. The Paris transport system RATP and others will describe how they will use those phones and Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer and power behind the Symbian operating system will also present.
Indeed, the huge e-passport global rollout has just spawned a $60 million order on Unisys by the US Department of Homeland Security to support the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative which will enhance security and traffic flow at 39 US points of entry - HF again.
Other vibrant technologies
The conference also deals with large orders being landed for UHF and LF passive systems. Speaker Digital Angel, for instance, has $20 million of orders for LF readers used in fish conservation to which it added another $6 million contract from the US Department of Energy this month. Active RFID, notably Real Time Locating Systems RTLS and RFID with sensing is increasing its share of the RFID pie. Suppliers describing the latest here include AeroScout, Ekahau, PowerID, TagSense, Awarepoint and Time Domain Corporation. The latest breakthroughs in materials, production machinery, chipless and even printed RFID - it is all here.