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RFID Industry Predicts Growth, Diversification

Technology companies have spent the past year expanding RFID use in apparel and other retail deployments, while health care, manufacturing, aviation and other sectors are expected to follow that trend.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 29, 2019

As technology companies consider the RFID trends of the past year and the 12 months ahead, they are striking some common themes around continued retail growth, expansion beyond apparel, a wider variety of products and use cases, and a need to promote the sustainability that the technology can bring to a supply chain. This year found RFID use growing, just as RFID technology companies are continuing to consolidate in the face of demand for high-volume tags.

In 2019, Avery Dennison announced its acquisition of Smartrac's RFID transponder line (see Avery Dennison to Buy Smartrac's Transponder Business). Avery anticipates a potential year of growth ahead for RFID, as well as for its own customer base and product line. In the apparel retail market, decision-making time is decreasing, which is a testament to the fact that "benefits are well documented and understood, so that people can move quickly to deployment," says Jeremy Schenof, Avery Dennison's senior director of global RFID solutions.

Avery Dennison's Jeremy Schenof
But growth is also under way outside of the apparel market, including use cases as diverse as beauty products and aviation, with projects trending from early proof-of-concepts to actual pilots, rollouts and true activity. Schenof cites Grupo Boticário in Brazil for beauty (see Grupo Boticário Plans RFID Deployment), and Sodexo Grab N Go for food management.

Companies are offering a wider variety of form factors and functionality-based tags to meet that demand for more use cases, Schenof reports. Avery Dennison sells its microwave-safe label, for instance, to track food items through the supply chain. Additionally, he points to sensor-based tags. All of these new capabilities come as incremental developments.

Smartrac's Karin Fabri
Another new focus is on sustainability. "That's a critical area of focus for us," Schenof says. Technology companies are striving to provide more sustainable tags, while the use of tags offers another level of sustainability in the supply chain, he explains. RFID technology in the food supply chain, for instance, is reducing the amount of food waste. "We haven't said enough on an industry level about what RFID can offer when it comes to creating a more sustainable supply chain, etc.," he states. "That's still an opportunity we need to look at as an industry."

Smartrac also sees rapidly growing demand for sustainable products, not only in the retail sector, according to Karin Fabri, Smartrac's head of marketing and communications. Smartrac is among companies that have introduced sustainable tags in 2019. In 2020, Smartrac plans to expand its Green Tag program to include other frequency standards, she says (see Smartrac, Partners Aim for Green Tags). Fabri cites three main drivers for RFID growth in the coming year: retail for inventory and supply chain management; automation, aviation and engineering for track and trace and sensor-based functionality; and NFC technology use for branded consumer goods.

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