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The Changing RFID Landscape

Interest in RFID grows in energy, manufacturing and retail and picks up more slowly in defense and government.
By Mark Roberti

Readership in all industries rose, but it increased more slowly in some sectors. This is reflected in percentage declines, because other sectors in the database grew faster. One surprise: Given the efforts by Airbus and Boeing to tag parts, we expected interest to be rising quickly in the aerospace sector. But from 2009 to 2015, that sector fell by 1 percent of the overall database. That trend might be changing. Recently, we've seen a noticeable number of new aerospace companies entering the database.

It's not a surprise that the consumer packaged goods sector continues to fall as a percentage of the database. Readers from that industry accounted for 3 percent of the database in 2009, 2 percent in 2012 and just 1 percent in 2015. Adoption began with Walmart requiring CPG companies to tag pallets and cases, but the focus soon shifted to item-level tracking. Given the low cost of consumer packaged goods, there was little value in tracking at the item level and interest waned. It will likely be revived as RFID readers are installed at warehouses and receiving docks at stores, where tagging at the pallet and case levels can be done at little extra cost.

The percentage of readers from the defense sector also decreased. This is no doubt due to the cuts in defense spending in the United States and other countries. We saw government interest in RFID systems decline relative to other sectors after the 2008 financial collapse, when tax revenues fell off sharply. Interest has not yet recovered, though some countries are deploying RFID to track government assets.

The number of readers within the RFID sector—that is, hardware, software and service providers—remained about the same during the past three years, though the number of RFID companies increased. Overall, RFID companies fell as a percentage of readers from 18 percent in 2009 to 16 percent in 2012 and 13 percent in 2015.

Intriguingly, the number of consultants, students and IT providers grew as a percentage of the total database, suggesting that interest is picking up more broadly. As consultants and IT providers (companies that offer cloud services or write applications) hear about big RFID deployments or find themselves being asked about it by their customers, they realize they need to get up to speed on the technology. More students are considering RFID as a career path.

Additional evidence indicates interest in RFID is expanding. The "other" segment of the RFID Journal database increased to 12 percent in 2015, from 10 percent three years earlier. This is due partly to more people signing up anonymously, but we have also seen companies from new sectors, such as asset management and event management, joining our readership.

Illustrations: iStockphoto

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