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RFID Trends: What's Ahead in 2017, Part 3

Technology providers predict advances in reader technology and management for the retail market and beyond.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 26, 2017

RFID's continued expansion in the retail market will be reliant on some technology improvements that make installations easier and lower in cost, while enabling Internet of Things compatibility. These kinds of developments are in the works by hardware companies, as well as solution providers, especially when it comes to overhead fixed ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers.

Alien Technology

The expected improvements in RFID readers in the near future will be designed around new approaches to power and the networking of readers, as well as further simplifications in infrastructure installation and configuration, says Pat Ervin, Alien Technology's president. Alien Technology makes UHF RFID readers and antennas, as well as chips, tags and inlays; and provides professional services.

Alien's Pat Ervin
Tied with a trend around improving reader power management, Ervin says, will be sensor integration—the availability of readers with built-in sensors to add further retail intelligence. He adds that more applications are also using specialized UHF passive RFID factory integrated circuit (IC) serial number setup that enables additional mechanisms of brand identification.

With these improvements in the works, RFID will break out of retail in 2017, predicts Neil Mitchell, Alien Technology's senior director of marketing. Just a few years ago, Mitchell says, a four- or eight- port reader with an array of antennas was effective enough to capture tags within a specific space, such as a modest-sized store, "But when you take a look at the problems retailers are trying to solve—quick installation, low overhead, the use of multiple readers," he says, the technology isn't meeting all the existing needs.

Retailers not only want an overhead reader that can capture data in real time, freeing up employees from using handheld readers, but also want to incorporate other sensor data. For instance, readers can accommodate cameras or motion detectors that will capture images or traffic patterns related to what is happening, even as tags are being read, and they need a system that is inexpensive to install.

"We are seeing this trend," Mitchell says, "and we're marching in that direction" to provide low-cost readers, networked together with sensor or other device compatibility.

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