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Impinj Reader Device Sales Reach 2 Million

Air transportation is one area of growth, along with retail installations, health-care systems, logistics and food—all driving the deployment of RFID reader infrastructure.
By Claire Swedberg

Retailers are acquiring RFID reader hardware for other purposes as well, Diorio notes. Impinj has been selling its connectivity devices for three primary use cases in retail: the xArray reader for in-store, real-time location data; kiosks, using Indy chips, for cashier-less checkouts; and portals for loss prevention. And in health care, RFID readers are capturing data regarding the locations of assets and inventory as items move through portals in hospital or other facilities.

In aviation, Diorio says, the air transportation industry has triggered RFID technology growth, with the IATA requiring that all passenger baggage must be tracked via RFID during the coming years. Tags will be mandated on all bags by 2020, and the infrastructure necessary to read those tags by 2025 (see NXP, Other Companies Preparing for Influx of RFID Baggage Technology Requestsax and Airline Industry Embraces RFID Baggage Tracking).

Impinj is currently in discussions with several airlines and other air transportation companies to determine what kind of RFID reader infrastructure those businesses might put in place, as well as what their deployments might look like. Such baggage-tracking solutions serve as a significant trend for RFID, according to Diorio—if not in the sheer volume of RFID technology use, then in the message that the industry is sending about the technology's value.

"Airlines and the air transportation industry don't choose technology that's unproven," Diorio states. The industry, by its very nature, he says, requires safety and reliability for any technology it adopts. The fact that the sector is now adopting RFID for all baggage, he notes, "is a really strong proof point" that the technology works, and does so safely.

The next big growth opportunity may be in the food industry, Diorio predicts. Food retailers, such as supermarkets and convenience stores, have adopted RFID more slowly than apparel retailers, because the cost of tags and tagging might outweigh the value of some of the food products being tracked. But tag prices are coming down, he says, and the use cases are becoming more plentiful. For example, stores in Japan and other parts of Asia are already offering RFID-enabled checkout stations and stores, allowing users to simply walk out of a store with their products, thereby purchasing them automatically.

While other technologies are being used for a similar purpose, such as in Amazon Go stores with optical technology, RFID provides several unique benefits that will mean goods are more likely to be on food stores' shelves. For one thing, Diorio says, it can enable the tracking of expiration dates. Therefore, for instance, if perishable foods were stored within a connected cooler, the device's RFID data could track which items were nearing their expiration dates and should thus be removed or discounted. The technology also works well with stacked products, when there is not a clear line of sight for each item on a shelf.

Moreover, Diorio says, blockchain technology is driving RFID adoption since it can be used to authenticate a product that has been shipped and received, when two parties fulfill a blockchain-based purchase and sale. "We truly believe, in this industry, that we will be able to connect every item in your world," Diorio says. "My enthusiasm just keeps growing." To date, Impinj has sold 2 million connectivity devices, as well as 25 billion tag ICs. That, he adds, equates to approximately 10,000 tag reads per reading device.

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