Vibrant RFID markets
Jun 09, 2008 Dr Peter Harrop
The global RFID market continues its rapid growth as record orders up to $0.5 billion each are serviced. This year demand for RFID is on target for $5.3 billion globally as it powers its way to $27 billion in 2018. Recent substantial additions to the global RFID orderbook include A$350 million from the State of Melbourne to boost its public transport RFID card scheme and a forecast by transport analysts that the national RFID card for transport being progressed in the UK will cost $2 billion. Indeed, much is now happening in Europe, although it is the US and China that share top slot as RFID spenders at present. For example, also in the UK, Raytheon, partnered with Serco, Accenture, Detica, QinetiQ, CapGemini and Steria has received an additional $184 million for the infrastructure of the UK RFID e-passport scheme.
US analyst Baird has noted that retailer Metro in Germany has taken leadership in introducing RFID into general retailing. However, it is in apparel that we see a huge surge across the world and this is covering everything from tracking the bolts of cloth in the factories to pallets, cases and above all individual items of clothing, where Marks and Spencer is world leader, with approaching 350 million tags used yearly.
Apparel RFID goes even further because there are now hundreds of commercial laundries in the world that are washing uniforms and other clothing such as hospital garments with the aid of RFID. Indeed, St Olaf's Hospital in Norway is an example of a hospital with its own RFID driven laundry. The hospitality industry also has its own laundries that are RFID savvy. Through this value chain, the benefits of RFID vary from efficiency in the factory and reducing stockouts in retailing to error prevention, faster service, reduced cost and eliminating tedious procedures in the laundry and rented garment sectors.
The majority of the money spent on RFID relates to passive tag systems of course and here there is both simplification and huge leaps forward in technology. The simplification comes from most Low Frequency RFID migrating to HF or UHF to save cost and improve performance and little or no growth in sales of passive RFID at other frequencies. That means that HF and UHF are very much on top and the resulting higher volumes at these frequencies, underwritten by new applicational specifications that allow nothing else, are helping both quality and cost.
HF is responsible for over half the money spent on RFID, thanks to cards, tickets, passports, library books, drugs and so on. Despite having been around a long time, there is now a surge of new technology at HF that is sharply improving all parameters including cost. UHF is similarly seeing a surge of innovation.
Applications are continuing to widen as well. For instance, European card leader Gemalto is working with Telecom Italia Mobile to permit NFC (RFID) enabled mobile phones to be used to pay for public transport, initially in the province of Trento in Italy. Behind that, we see robust investments in new RFID companies such as the additional $10 million just raised by Ekahau in Finland for their WiFi Real Time Locating Systems. RTLS is currently the hottest form of active RFID.
All these trends will be fully explored at the IDTechEx conference RFID Europe in Cambridge UK September 30-October 1. Europe's largest RFID show - it is the industry event to attend with attendees and speakers from the major RFID sectors and applications. This year, it is co-located with the Active RFID, RTLS, & Sensor Networks summit because it is important that another hot topic - the growth of active RFID to ten times its market size in 2018 - is examined as well. Hear from Boekhandels Groep, largest bookseller in the Netherlands and world leader in tagging books in retailing. End users such as Progressive Gaming, Royal Alexandra Hospital and Container Centralen will present. Exciting suppliers chosen to speak include Bibliotheca (Libraries), Cisco, Confidex, Ekahau, Conductive Inkjet Technology, Omni ID (on-metal UHF), Open Source Innovation, Ingecom tracking instruments in Siemens, Traak Systems (dealing with impending data overload) and Trackway.
Dr Peter Harrop of IDTechEx will analyse the booming global market of RFID for apparel. Lyngsoe Systems, much admired for recent work at Milan Airport and for its postal advances will present new material. Investors presenting include Quan Ventures of Switzerland, RFID Invest AG of Germany and XAnge Private Equity of France which is backed by La Poste. Other best in class speakers will be announced soon and there will be the usual visits to local centres of excellence plus optional Masterclasses.
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