10 Predictions for 2016

By Mark Roberti

This will be a good year for the RFID industry, especially for companies selling systems to retail and apparel businesses.

As I do at the beginning of every year, I'd like to offer a list of developments I expect to see in 2016. These are based on trends from the past few years, as well as data collected by RFID Journal and, occasionally, a hunch or two.

1. It will be a year of solid growth for the RFID industry, with companies focused on retail and apparel doing especially well. If the global economy remains stable, we will see more retailers moving from the pilot phase to the rollout phase. Those that have already rolled out the technology will expand those rollouts. I don't expect the industry to reach the tipping point, but there will be solid growth in RFID's use in this sector. All other sectors will also see growth, but not to the same degree.

2. Aerospace, construction and energy will be three industries that also outpace the rest of the market. (While growth will be strong, they will lag behind the retail sector). I see more companies in these three industries subscribing to RFID Journal. In aerospace, the driver is adoption by the two big aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing. Construction companies are trying to reduce historical inefficiencies, while energy companies need to cut costs in the face of depressed oil prices.

3. Consolidation of RFID suppliers will continue. Although the large RFID vendors—reader manufacturers, chipmakers and tag providers—will all do well this year, smaller companies that have not built a brand will struggle to find new business. Some of those with good technology will run low on cash and be acquired; others without good technology will likely go out of business.

4. Someone with authority at Microsoft will realize that RFID represents a massive opportunity for the company. There are signs that Microsoft and other large technology firms are starting to pay some attention to RFID, because they see how it will drive growth in cloud computing.

5. Low-cost passive RFID sensors will be deployed in increasing numbers. We've written about a number of very interesting applications of RFID sensors in the automotive and construction industry. Other sectors will start to see the value of being able to monitor the environment and adopt these sensors.

6. We will continue to see incremental innovations that make RFID more reliable and less complex to deploy. During the past few years, passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags and readers have improved dramatically. The focus now will be on simplifying deployments and making systems scalable. This is critical if RFID is going to be used by retailers across hundreds of thousands of stores. But the advancements will benefit all enterprise users.

7. Investors will venture back into the RFID market. I predicted last year that venture capitalists would invest in RFID companies again, which didn't happen. But I continue to see interest among VCs, private equity firms and other investors. As the market picks up, I think investors will back companies that have a strategic edge in the market.

8. Drones and robots will continue to be combined with RFID to automate data collection. RFID has always been about automating data collection, freeing up workers from this task so they can focus on more value-added activities. We might not see any large deployments, but end users across a variety of industries will continue to explore the potential of drones and robots.

9. One solution provider will combine RFID and video analytics in a new and innovative way that will open up some novel applications. I'm taking a flyer on this one, because I have not yet seen any vendor with an interesting prototype. But someone out there has to be smart enough to see that these are highly complementary technologies.

10. Our RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition—being held in Orlando, Fla., on May 3-5, 2016—will be the best-attended event in its history. This is not just promotion for our upcoming event. We've seen solid growth in attendance for the past two years, and if that trend continues, we will top our best year in terms of number of attendees, which was 2008. Right now, we are on pace to do that. I believe that if the U.S. economy remains steady, the trend will continue.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.