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Experts Weigh In on RFID's Tipping Point

A survey of more than 800 technology professionals found that most believe more than 1 trillion objects will be connected to the internet by 2022, using RFID and other technologies.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 30, 2016

Last year, the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society launched the Technological Tipping Points survey, which asked respondents for their views on 21 "tipping points"—moments when specific technological shifts hit mainstream society. The aim was to provide insights into the expectations of information and communications technology experts on key emerging technologies.

The survey asked respondents for their perception of when these tipping points have or will occur. Choices included "It has already happened," "20+ years" and "never."

The World Economic Forum received 816 responses, which were aggregated and analyzed. The results showed that, on average, the experts believe that by 2022, more than 1 trillion objects will be connected to the internet via radio frequency identification, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and other wireless technologies.

"With continuously increasing computing power and falling hardware prices (still in line with Moore's Law), it is economically feasible to connect literally anything to the internet," the report states. "Intelligent sensors are already available at very competitive prices. All things will be smart and connected to the internet, enabling greater communication and new data-driven services based on increased analytics capabilities."

It's not clear, of course, what the experts meant by Internet of Things technologies. Some people don't consider RFID an IoT technology (even though the term emerged from the RFID industry). If you discount RFID, then it is hard to imagine 1 trillion items being linked to the internet by 2022. Here's why.

Most IoT technologies except passive RFID require a power source, usually a battery. There are several things that will inhibit wide-scale use of these technologies to connect everyday objects to the internet. First, not everything in the world has a power source to tap into. Even with some items that do have batteries, such as power tools, you might not want to connect to the internet using the object's battery power because that could shorten battery life.

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