What’s in store for RFID in 2008?
RFID has been moving ahead in leaps and bounds according to reports released throughout 2007. However, what is in store for 2008? Will RFID technology continue to move forwards or will another technology surge ahead and steal the limelight?
In a recent interview with Radio Comms Asia-Pacific, Scott Austin, president Syscan Australasia, shed a little light on what is in store for RFID technology in 2008.
Radio Comms Asia-Pacific: There has been a lot of talk of active RFID and RTLS; where do you think this will go in 2008 and beyond?
Scott Austin, president Syscan Australasia: Active RFID has always been an important part of our solutions basket. We've sold or deployed Active RFID for use in interactive retail, asset management (mainly computers), vehicle access control, industrial safety and mining applications – it is such an effective and reliable technology.
Most of these applications are providing real-time zones or long-range recognition as opposed to real-time location to a specific measured location. The latter is achieved through triangulation either from active tag readers or through an 802.11 wireless infrastructure.
I’m actually writing these comments for you on the way back from the USA where I’ve spent the last two weeks looking at specific applications of RFID for our users in 2008. It’s clear to me that asset management, particularly for critical equipment within healthcare, will be a growth market and we are already communicating with large hospitals in the US.
The use of active RFID for cold chain management, particularly in the food and pharmaceutical markets, will be one to watch. We have technology in this area which passes environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity back to a central data collection point through a meshed network of tags. The data is then managed through a managed service via the internet.
RC: The Chinese RFID market grew rapidly in 2007; what kind of projects do you think they will have in 2008 and how do you think this will affect the RFID market?
SA: There’s no question that line item tagging using EPC Class 1 Gen 2 tags will be one of the strongest growth areas in 2008. This means that source item tagging will be a major determinant of success and guess where the source is – China. So everything from clothing through to CDs will be tagged.
RC: It was reported that RFID tags have been getting cheaper; do you think in 2008 they will get cheaper still?
SA: Tag costs will continue downward I’d say. We're still very early on the tag development and manufacturing curve and as with all other similar technologies, cost will continue to be reduced with further maturity, competition and volume.
Some major technology changes in both alternative silicon raw materials and printed antenna technology will generate reductions in the longer term. Much also depends on the number of added value stages the label needs to go through such as special sizes, papers and printing – this is where costs are often added and this will be the next barrier to overcome in the swing tag and label market for retail readiness and presentation.
You have to remember that two years ago in the UHF EPC Class 1 Gen 2 market we witnessed some huge competition from inlay producers trying to stimulate adoption and fill manufacturing capacity.
I see real reductions coming in reader and antenna costs particularly in UHF as competition heats up in this market and as manufacturers get smarter in design and production of new-generation readers grows. Plug and play will be a major benefit as some engineering costs will be reduced through manufacturers building portal antennas ready for deployment out of the box.
Another cost reduction will occur from pure ingenuity. The Vue Technology shelf reader system incorporating a sensational antenna multiplexing scenario will make installations less expensive from a hardware perspective – imagine running 16 antennas from one reader rather than the normal two or four. Once again, another plus for line item tagging in retail.
RC: What kind of standards do you think need to be introduced into the RFID market? How would these standards affect the market?
SA: Well, I think the passive market is well covered through the current array of ISO and EPC standards. Our industry, especially in Australia through organisations such as RFIDAA and ADCA (Automatic Data Capture Association), has a strong vision for installation standards and training compliance – this can only be a positive for end users and the industry as a whole.
The active market needs some strong standardisation and we’ve seen some of this start in 2007 with the US Department of Defence taking the initiative to establish standards around active RFID.
RC: What do you think will be the next big development in RFID?
SA: No question, people will deploy it as a given rather than an afterthought or nice to have – RFID will become a must have for companies wanting to obtain and maintain competitiveness through efficiency and product management. And it will not matter whether that comes through improved asset management, compliance automation or enhanced supply chain management.
RC: In which industry wil RFID be most important in 2008?
SA: Mining, cold chain management and compliance and item level tagging in retail.
RC: What are the biggest advantages RFID holds for users in 2008?
SA: Seize a leadership position and jump over your competitors – the sooner adoption occurs the sooner the benefits roll in. Why do you think mining companies are investing in RFID now while times are good – to maximise efficiencies for when things flatten out.
RC: What disadvantages does RFID hold for users?
SA: Finding experienced companies and people to deploy RFID for them – but we will try and accommodate all as best as we can as we also grow and invest in training new people coming into the industry. But one cannot understate the importance of experience in engineering RFID solutions that maximise benefits.
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