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9 Things RFID Will Be Remembered for in '08, Part 1

This article is Part 1 of a three-part series that recaps the top RFID developments from 2008. This installment focuses on advances in UWB, passive UHF and NFC technologies. Tomorrow's Part 2 will examine startups, funding, and M&A in the RFID vendor landscape, and Part 3 will identify new trends and provide an outlook for 2009.
Dec 14, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

December 14, 2008—When assessing the RFID industry in 2008, it is important not to confuse activity with significance. There were many new product releases and perhaps more new actual, verifiable implementations than ever before. However, most of the top developments of 2008 reflected previously identified trends.

What didn't happen in 2008 may be more significant than what did. The California e-pedigree law, which was expected to create strong demand for RFID systems throughout the pharmaceutical supply chain, did not take effect as scheduled. (In fact, no new pharmaceutical RFID requirements were created, despite much activity.) The retail supply chain compliance bandwagon remains a small one, and Sam's Club's early-year announcements of new tagging requirements did not seem to have been a catalyst for new widespread adoption. The EPCIS standard that was completed in late 2007 did not have a transformative impact on the market. And there were no industry IPOs, which means there is still no publicly-held, pure-play RFID company.

But there was a lot of movement in the RFID industry in 2008, most of it in directions where developments already were going. There were some exceptions, and some evolutionary activity merits attention. RFID Update highlights these topics in this three-part series that recaps what we consider the most significant RFID developments of 2008. Today's installment summarizes technological advances. Tomorrow's Part 2 will recap the mergers, acquisitions, startups and investment that most shaped the RFID vendor community, and Part 3 will highlight emerging trends, update previous ones and present views on the outlook for 2009.

#9 -- UWB Grows Up Fast

At the beginning of 2008 ultra-wideband (UWB) was considered a niche technology with a limited market among real-time location systems (RTLS) users. UWB can still be considered niche based on its share of overall RTLS revenues, but it emerged as a mainstream technology alternative during 2008. RTLS vendors announced a steady stream of new customers, including a few high-profile projects outside the traditional healthcare market. Wireless platform technology providers Cisco Systems, Motorola and AeroScout each added support for UWB in their systems that support other RFID technologies. These accomplishments are especially impressive considering there are only a few UWB technology providers and their systems are not interoperable. Zebra Technologies, which has a portfolio of bar code, UHF, HF and active RFID technologies, showed its confidence in the segment by acquiring UWB technology developer Multispectral Solutions.

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#8 -- Not Even Metal Blocks UHF Progress

RFID users and integrators continue to report improved performance from ISO 18000-6, Gen2 and other passive UHF technologies, and several 2008 developments provided affirmation and acceleration of this trend. Most notable was UHF's strong performance and interference resistance when used on and around metal, which was reported from several independent tests. In one of its benchmarks ODIN technologies declared that the days of incompatibility between Gen2 and metal are over, while Silicon Valley startup Omni-ID launched with a "universal tag" that works when metal or liquid is present and when they aren't. Two leading UHF technology providers, Alien Technology and Impinj, introduced chips with features that enable new uses of the technology, while Avery Dennison and Fujitsu each announced enhanced memory chips.

Extended range was among the key reader developments for the year: Mojix introduced a system that uses a receiver networked to multiple nodes to provide coverage of large areas, while Convergence Systems released a handheld that can read tags from 25 feet away.

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#7 -- Near Field Communication Get Nearer

Like the solstice, predictions of near field communication (NFC) adoption come regularly and reliably. The predictions in 2008 were more reserved than in the past, but there were also developments that will help NFC growth predictions come true. The Smart Card Alliance, whose members include leading credit card companies and banks, added its weight to the momentum by forming a 120-member council to promote adoption of NFC and its contactless payment applications. Another industry organization, the NFC Forum, continued its standards development efforts and delivered new specifications. AIRTAG released a much-needed NFC development kit to technology solution providers, and major RFID chip producer UPM Raflatac announced a new portfolio of NFC tags.

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