2012: A Year of Progress

By Mark Roberti

End users rolled out new RFID applications and expanded existing deployments, the technology continued to improve, and there were some major acquisitions.


At the beginning of every new year, I use this column to take a look at the radio frequency identification industry throughout the previous 12 months. This past year can best be summed up as one of steady progress, with encouraging developments in three areas.

First, several major enterprise deployments were expanded. Airbus, one of the world’s two major airplane manufacturers, announced the expansion of its RFID part-marking activities for the A350 XWB aircraft to all seats and life vests for its A320, A330 and A380 models (see Airbus Expands RFID Part Marking Across All of Its Aircraft Families). This is the first step toward marking all parts across its fleet with RFID.

Global clothing manufacturer and retailer American Apparel began equipping all of its 280 stores with RFID technology, following a deployment of RFID readers and tags at 100 locations in 2011 (see American Apparel Adopting RFID at Every Store). In addition, Walmart, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration continue to expand their rollouts. It’s important to note that these are large-scale deployments in which RFID is being used in mission-critical applications.

Cisco Systems adopted RFID to manage fixed assets within 70 U.S. data centers and R&D labs, thereby saving the network giant time and money (see Cisco’s Business-Driven RFID Strategy). And BP deployed an RFID solution at two of its refineries, with plans to make the system a standard for use at all of its refinery locations (see BP Refines Maintenance Operations).

Macy’s announced plans to begin its RFID rollout this year. Meanwhile, J.C. Penney‘s CEO, Ron Johnson, told a conference audience that he expects his firm to start affixing RFID tags to 100 percent of its merchandise, and to begin using the technology to enable self-checkout (see Word Is Getting Out About RFID in Retail and J.C. Penney CEO Predicts RFID Will Help Create a Transformational Shopping Experience).

A second area in which RFID made progress is in the quality of RFID systems. There are too many interesting new products to name them all here, but a few that come to mind are Xerafy‘s flexible tag for monitoring metal items (see RFID News Roundup: Xerafy Introduces Flexible UHF Inlay for Tracking Metal Assets), Omni-ID‘s 0.05-inch-thick metal-mount tag (see Omni-ID Launches UltraThin Metal-Mount Tags), and Intelleflex‘s all-in-one reader with GPS and cellular technology for transmitting temperature data (see Intelleflex Launches Self-Contained Reader to Bring Visibility to Remote Sites). And Intel, working with Impinj, developed a design for linking embedded RFID chips to microprocessors that could jump-start RFID adoption within the consumer electronics industry (see Game Changer?).

Finally, 2012 was a year of major acquisitions. In June, Motorola Solutions and Psion reached an agreement under which Motorola purchased the British handheld computer manufacturer for $200 million (see Motorola to Broaden Handheld Reader Portfolio With Psion Acquisition). The deal also expanded Motorola’s footprint in Europe.

That same month, Stanley Healthcare Solutions, a division of Stanley Black & Decker, acquired real-time location system (RTLS) provider AeroScout (see Stanley Healthcare Solutions Acquires Wi-Fi-based RTLS Company AeroScout). In September, a group of private investors purchased Savi Technology from Lockheed Martin (see Savi Technology Acquired by Private Investors). And in December, Honeywell announced that it was acquiring Intermec, a major provider of bar-code and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID technology (see Honeywell to Buy Intermec).

These major acquisitions indicate that some hardware companies see great potential in the RFID market and are investing in the technology to strengthen their position as the market expands. Will software companies and IT integrators take similar steps? You’ll have to wait until next week, when I plan to offer my predictions for 2013.

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.