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Chinese RFID Adoption Takes Many Forms

The Shanghai branch of U.S. RFID technology provider Impinj is seeing strong demand for passive UHF tags and readers from the nation's banking, transportation and retail sectors, with the greatest growth coming from consumer goods manufacturers.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 14, 2015

During the past five years, Impinj China, the Shanghai-based division of RFID technology provider Impinj, says it has seen the demand for passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology increasing across Asia. Leading that momentum are consumer goods manufacturers in China, with factories employing RFID technology for work-in-progress (WIP) and logistics-visibility applications, according to Yue Xi Savage, Impinj's VP of Asia-Pacific (APAC). China's banking and transportation sectors are also contributing to the region's demand for RFID technology, as is its retail industry, with anti-counterfeiting solutions.

The overall RFID market growth in that country is illustrated by Impinj China's expansion of its operations, Savage says. Impinj launched the division in 2010, initially under the name Impinj RFID Shanghai, in a 400-square-foot room with two employees. The company's goal was to better meet the needs of customers and partners throughout Asia. Since then, the firm has moved three times to ever-larger offices in order to accommodate the growth. The facility it opened in Shanghai Technology Park, in December 2014, spans approximately 2,400 square feet and has a sales team of about 10 employees.

Yue Xi Savage
The Shanghai facility includes a demonstration area in which customers can try out Impinj's new xArray RAIN RFID gateway device, an EPC Gen 2 UHF reader with an 18-inch-square integrated antenna array that creates dozens of read zones in order to identify RFID-tagged products and their locations in real time (see Impinj Announces Commercial Availability of Its xArray UHF Reader). Savage says a number of very large Chinese companies utilizing Impinj's products required her firm to expand its facility in Shanghai. Not only are those businesses installing Impinj's Speedway Revolution reader and xArray technology for real-time tag reads, but RFID hardware vendors are manufacturing and selling tags made with Impinj's Monza chips, as well as readers made with its Indy reader chips.

Several years ago, Savage says, she felt that RFID usage in China was growing slowly. But as a growing number of companies, such as retailers, throughout Europe and the United States have been requiring the RFID-tagging of their products, about half a dozen Chinese companies that manufacture these products have opted to take advantage of those tags, in order to gain visibility into their own operations and logistics. At the same time, a number of Chinese RFID hardware manufacturers are embedding Impinj Indy R2000, R1000, R500 and RS500 RFID reader chips into low-cost readers that can be used in assembly lines at factories or at stores in China, in order to enable customers to authenticate a product before making a purchase.

For the past decade or so, Savage adds, the Chinese government has been interested in Internet of Things (IoT) technology and the collection of data based on sensors and RFID tags. Therefore, the government has not only launched its own RFID programs—such as tagging police uniforms to track the use of those garments, as well as vehicle tagging for toll collection—but has also provided funding for some RFID deployments.

When it comes to the retail market, Chinese merchants and consumers are concerned about counterfeiting, since the incidence of fake products is high for everything from food to medications and electronics. Stores are beginning to use RFID to allow shoppers to read a tag on a product at the time of purchase, using a low-cost reader installed in the store, and thereby confirm that it is the real thing. Brands are currently tagging products to make this possible.

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