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The Decade Ahead

Here are my predictions for how RFID will be adopted over the next 10 years.
By Mark Roberti
Jan 11, 2010At this time of year, it's common for editors to make predictions for the 12 months ahead. Given that it's the start of the second decade of the 21st century, I think it's more useful to look ahead to the next 10 years.

First, though, I'd like to take a look back at the past 10 years. In 2000, almost no one had heard of radio frequency identification. Texas Instruments, NXP Semiconductors (then known as Philips Semiconductors) and a few other companies had successful businesses selling RFID chips mainly used in automobile immobilizers, access-control cards and animal identification systems. No one was making huge investments in RFID hardware or software, and very few companies were using it.


Things changed when Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Gillette (then a separate company), Unilever and other major international companies funded research at MIT aimed at using RFID to create the next-generation bar code. The Electronic Product Code (EPC) was proposed as a means of collecting and sharing supply chain data among business partners. That led to the introduction of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID and stimulated interest in all types of RFID systems, and such interest then led to an explosion in the number of companies offering RFID technologies.

When I first learned about the work being done to make it possible to use RFID in open supply chains and subsequently launched RFID Journal, I realized the technology would be used in far more innovative ways than just tracking pallets and cases. While RFID is not as pervasive as I thought it would be in the retail and consumer packaged goods sectors, it has spread to more industries, as I had anticipated it would.

In fact, in the past 10 years, we've gone from a world in which very few companies had heard of RFID to one in which the technology is now being used in every industry and every country on the planet. So what does the next decade hold in store? Here are my predictions for the next 10 years, and if you haven't read it yet, check out our current print magazine, which depicts what the world might be like in the year 2030.

Performance issues will not be a concern for passive systems. Today, the ability to read tags consistently is a big obstacle to adoption. Many end users mistakenly believe that if you can't read every tag every time, then RFID provides little value. While the laws of physics won't be repealed over the next 10 years, vendors will continue to improve the technology to the point at which interrogators will read the tags you want them to read consistently. And best practices will emerge for dealing with situations in which every tag can't be read, such as when they are on cases buried in the middle of a pallet of canned goods.

Standards for active systems will solidify. Active systems don't have the performance issues that passive tags have, but there has been a lack of standardization. The adoption of the ISO 18000-7 standard for active tags means that end users will be able to purchase active tags and interrogators from a variety of vendors. This should not only lower costs for end users, but also stimulate innovation as vendors try to differentiate their products. ZigBee and Wi-Fi standards for active systems will continue to be popular, but for supply chain applications, I see ISO 18000-7 dominating.

USER COMMENTS

Patrick Taylor 2010-01-13 04:27:03 AM
Tires & Tyres I think for sure the tyre industry will be tagging all tyres by the end of this decade. Tagging was first tried by Michelin in 2003 but now with a tyre industry agreed standard it is about to take off. Bandag Bridgestone has said they will be tagging truck tyres in Brazil and Sailun of China has promised tagged tyres for later this year. What is not clear in either case is whether this is for ranges of tyres or an answer to requests. Tyre theft is a big problem with tyres being swopped out whilst vehicles are out on routes. RFID tagging will not only help deter this sort of theft but will greatly aid truck fleets in managing efficient tyre maintenance. Large tyres are often re-capped, up to five times, and knowing that they can be sure they get their carefully looked after tyres back from the re-treader will encourage firms. However given the price - re-treads are generally half the cost of new tyres and give 80% of the total mileage - it should be an easy decision. If you look at PneuLogic' site - Trans-Logik.com, which has been active in the field for a number of years you can see the tools, and the momentum for RFID. So 2020 it could well be a billion tags a year in tyres. Any recalls under the TREAD Act should be a lot easier!
Mark Roberti 2010-01-13 11:52:32 AM
Tires Interesting. It could well be. We have seen some of the tire companies doing things, but I have not see a lot of activity by the trucking companies.

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