A Plethora of RFID Products

By Mark Roberti

Vendors are innovating, and that's good for end users.

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I often receive e-mails from readers asking if there is a radio frequency identification tag that can survive an autoclave, a reader that can be placed on a forklift truck, or a handheld that can indicate how close or far away a tag is located. These days, the answer is almost always “Yes.” (I say almost always because occasionally, someone wants a passive high-frequency [HF] tag that can be read from four miles away, or one that can be read within a lead-lined safe.)

This year, a record number of new products will be introduced at our upcoming RFID Journal LIVE! 2013 conference and exhibition, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., from Apr. 30 to May 2. As I looked through the new product submissions, I was impressed by the variety of innovative products designed to help companies address their business issues. A few years ago, it was difficult to find a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) transponder that would work well in the presence of metal. Now, Omni-ID and Xerafy offer on-metal tags that come right out of Zebra Technologies label printers.

Until recently, there were essentially three form factors for UHF readers: fixed readers for portals, mobile versions for carts and industrial handheld units. At LIVE! 2013, many of these conventional readers will be on display, but there will also be devices designed to be placed overhead in a store to create a broad read field, as well as tablet readers, UHF interrogators that can be mounted on smartphones and a model small enough to fit on a keychain.

In addition to passive UHF RFID, there’s an explosion of new passive HF and Near Field Communication (NFC) products as well. This year’s event will also feature the largest number of active RFID systems exhibited, including those employing the Dash7 standard, ultra-wideband (UWB), Wi-Fi, ZigBee and proprietary protocols.

Software has always been a weak area for RFID, with a few companies, such as GlobeRanger, OATSystems and RFID Global Solution, dominating the market. But there are newcomers this year, and we are starting to see the introduction of complete solutions. Many active RFID system providers now offer software for managing assets with their tags and readers. InfoChip and other companies offer passive hardware, software and services. (To view additional products that will be exhibited at LIVE! 2013, visit www.rfidjournalevents.com/live/products.php.)

Now, the biggest challenge the industry faces is letting people know that the products that can solve their business problems exist (see Great Products Need Strong Marketing). The vast majority of end users don’t know how far the industry has come during the past three or four years. They still think passive UHF doesn’t work around water or metal, and that RFID is unreliable.

But some firms are growing more confident that RFID can solve their business issues. I have spoken to many RFID providers this year, almost all of whom tell me that their business is good. End users are taking less time to decide to invest in RFID solutions.

That means RFID companies will soon have greater revenue to invest in new products, and my guess is that as their business begins to grow, they will hire marketing professionals to promote their solutions. A few are already advertising new products being unveiled at LIVE! in advance of the event.

If more RFID providers begin to advertise their products, companies in myriad industries within nations worldwide will become aware that solutions to their problems are available. When this happens, RFID Journal looks forward to reporting on these developments.

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.