The Silver Lining

As businesses struggled to survive and thrive during the pandemic, the markets for RFID, IoT and other connected technologies surged.
Published: July 25, 2021

If there’s one thing we receive a lot of at RFID Journal, it’s market report announcements. New reports are released on a regular basis, published by a variety of research firms and covering a broad spectrum of technologies. We don’t write about all of them, because if we did we’d need to change our name to Market Report Journal. But sometimes, the information contained in such studies offers useful insights into the state of the market for radio frequency identification and related technologies. Here are some of the predictions announced in recent months.

Research Dive foresees the global RFID market generating revenues of $21.4 billion by 2027, an increase from 2019’s estimate of $10 billion.  Verified Market Research valued the 2019 market at $20.2 billion and anticipates $34.4 billion in revenues during the same forecast period.  ResearchAndMarkets projects the global chipless RFID market to reach $3.2 billion by 2026 and the worldwide RFID market size to hit $17.4 billion.

Market Research Future (MRFR) expects the RFID tag market will be worth $19 billion by 2027, up from its 2020 valuation at $8.5 billion.  Brandessence Market Research suggests a global RFID tag market size for 2027 of $19.7 billion, up from $10.2 billion last year. MRFR also sees the smart packaging market jumping to $61.9 billion by 2027, up from $39.8 million just a year ago, and the digital transformation market leaping from $250.7 billion in 2018 to an enormous $817 billion by 2025.

ReportLinker claims the global smart retail market, which it sized last year at $19.7 billion, will be worth $23.2 billion in 2021, then reach $52.9 billion by 2026. Verified Market Research values the RFID market for healthcare at $4.8 billion in 2019, with that number escalating almost fourfold to $18.4 billion by 2027, while ResearchAndMarkets expects the smart food logistics market, valued last year at $8.12 billion, to more than double, reaching $16.7 billion by 2026. Verified further expects the market for real-time location system (RTLS) technologies to catapult from $3.4 billion in 2018 to $22.2 billion by 2026.

In the Internet of Things (IoT) space,  MarketsandMarkets forecasts the global market size for the Industrial IoT will grow from $76.7 billion now to $106.1 billion by 2026, with the IoT’s adoption in the smart railways sector contributing to growth from the current $26 billion to $41.2 billion by that same year. MRFR’s report on the 5G-related IIoT market foresees a worth of $8.9 billion by 2027, growing at an exponential compound annual growth rate of 71.3 percent, while  Data Bridge Market Research expects the IoT medical devices market to expand to $90.8 billion by 2028.

Global Market Insights, in studying the digital twins market, estimates the valuation to exceed $50 billion by 2027, thanks to the growing demand for connected devices across multiple industries and the rapid adoption of Industry 4.0.  ABI Research anticipates IoT-based machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) services will reach $3.6 billion by 2026, and  VDC Research claims 21 billion RAIN RFID tag ICs were sold worldwide in 2020, up substantially from pre-pandemic levels.

In addition,  Allied Market Research says the Near Field Communication (NFC) industry was estimated at $15.5 billion in 2019 but is expected to hit $54.5 billion by 2028—nearly quadrupling in size—while  IndustryStatsReport indicates the market size for smart beacons, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), was $1.09 billion in 2019 but will skyrocket to $40 million by 2025. What’s more,  IDC estimates there will be in excess of 55 billion connected devices in use worldwide within the next four years.

So what does all this mean? The numbers vary from one research firm to the next, by a noticeable margin in some cases, but there’s one thing on which the experts agree: the markets for RFID, IoT, BLE, NFC, RTLS and other connected technologies are doing quite well right now, and they’re expected to maintain this level of prosperity for the next several years. Encouraging outcomes can sometimes result from horribly discouraging scenarios—a silver lining can brighten even the darkest and most depressing of clouds. This may be one of those times, for the widespread scramble to deploy such technologies has no doubt been at least partially inspired by a need to adjust to COVID-19.

Of course, it would have been far preferable for the pandemic to never have occurred. There have been an estimated 191 million cases of the coronavirus to date, with more than 4 million deaths worldwide. Those figures are staggering, far more impactful than any of the above numbers, and it’s heartbreaking to ponder the loss of life our species has suffered in so shockingly short a span of time. But as companies work to repair supply chains, improve hospital and retail operations, and get people vaccinated as quickly and effectively as possible, RFID and other technologies have taken on a new life. Perhaps that one silver lining can offer some small comfort.

Rich Handley has been the managing editor of RFID Journal since 2005. Outside the RFID world, Rich has authored, edited or contributed to numerous books about pop culture.