About Honeywell’s Purchase of Intermec

By Mark Roberti

It's a sign of the RFID market's growth, as well as of a potential battle for 'gorilla' status in the reader market.


The recent spate of acquisitions, including last week’s announcement that Honeywell will purchase Intermec for $600 million (see Honeywell to Buy Intermec), is a sign that the radio frequency identification market is gaining traction.

Companies don’t acquire other businesses in industries in which there is little or no growth. So Motorola‘s purchase of handheld reader company Psion in June of this year (see Motorola to Broaden Handheld Reader Portfolio With Psion Acquisition); Stanley Healthcare Solutions‘ acquisition of RFID and real-time location system firm AeroScout (see Stanley Healthcare Solutions Acquires Wi-Fi-based RTLS Company AeroScout); and Smartrac‘s purchase of UPM RFID in December 2011 (see Smartrac Acquires UPM RFID, Becoming a UHF Tag Leader) all suggest that the market is starting to grow significantly.

Honeywell’s purchase of Intermec wasn’t all (or even primarily) about RFID. Intermec is a well-known manufacturer of bar-code technology, and it fits nicely with Honeywell’s Scanning & Mobility unit, which was created by Honeywell’s acquisition of Hand Held Products (in 2007), Metrologic Instruments (in 2008) and LXE (in 2011). But RFID is clearly part of the deal, and it provides a pathway for Honeywell to be a major player in that industry.

Indeed, when Honeywell launched its Optimus 5900 handheld reader in June, Taylor Smith, the director of product marketing at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility (HSM), told RFID Journal that Honeywell has been watching the development of the RFID market and was introducing its first product into the market due to the growth in item-level tracking among major retailers (see Honeywell Sees Its Optimus 5900 Reader as the First in a Series of RFID Products).

The acquisition sets up an interesting face-off between old advisories Honeywell and Motorola. Veterans of the data-capture industry will recall that Symbol Technologies had a dominant market share in the bar-code sector. Then Honeywell purchased Metrologic and began competing for business for which Symbol hadn’t needed to work all that hard in the past.

Motorola acquired Symbol in 2007, and is now the leading supplier of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) handheld and fixed readers. Motorola is well positioned to be the “gorilla”—author Geoffrey Moore’s term for the dominant technology supplier in a market—in the RFID sector. Honeywell appears to be saying, “Not so fast.” With its own handheld devices, Intermec’s fixed readers and LXE’s mobile readers, as well as Honeywell’s deep pockets, the company has the products and resources to compete for supremacy in the market.

Who will win? End users will. I say that because healthy competition is good for the market. It encourages companies to invest in research and development, to innovate and to offer the best products at the lowest cost. And that’s exactly what end users want. These acquisitions are all a healthy sign for the RFID industry.

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.