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RFID Journal's Watch List: Companies and Organizations to Watch

Will RFID adoption accelerate across industries, or will it forever remain a niche technology, delivering value in only a few applications? We surveyed the RFID landscape to identify the companies and organizations most likely to influence adoption, either positively or negatively.
By Jennifer Zaino
Dec 01, 2008—FID Journal's Watch List, intended to help you assess the future of radio frequency identification. This week, we'll focus on the companies and organizations to watch; we profiled the people last week, and we’ll cover the technologies next week. Overall, we think there are many exciting developments on the horizon, so stay tuned.

By Jennifer Zaino

Dec. 1, 2008—Radio frequency identification is at a crossroads. During the past six years, it's gone from an obscure technology used by a handful of companies to a technology that is more widely understood and is being adopted in a broad range of business, government and consumer applications. The advancement of RFID can be attributed to the forward-thinking people who recognized its potential, the companies and organizations that boldly tested and implemented it, and the technology developments that made it smarter, as well as easier and less costly to deploy.

But RFID has not reached the level of adoption many envisioned, particularly in the global supply chain. As businesses plan for 2009 and 2010, and consider whether to invest in RFID or other technologies, the looming question is: Will RFID adoption accelerate across industries, or will it forever remain a niche technology delivering value in only a few applications?

That question can't be answered today; it will only be answered over time. To help you see the writing on the wall more clearly, RFID Journal's editors surveyed the RFID landscape to identify the people, the companies and organizations, and the technological innovations that are most likely to influence adoption, either positively or negatively. On the following pages, you'll find our Watch List to help you assess the future of RFID. Overall, we think there are many exciting developments on the horizon, so stay tuned.

Alien Technology
RFID tag and reader maker Alien Technology has long been a bellwether of the RFID industry, so there was a lot of interest when it filed for an initial public offering in 2006. When Alien pulled out of that IPO, some speculated about its survival. The company has proved those concerns unjustified, completing a $38 million round of funding in October. To date, it has raised $329 million.

What's behind continued investor interest? Consider that in 2008, Alien will have doubled its 2007 tag volumes, and CEO George Everhart projects the company will double its 2008 volumes in 2009. While still a major supplier to consumer packaged-goods companies meeting retailer tagging mandates, Alien has expanded its business to serve end users in other industries as well. Opportunities in closed-loop solutions are growing by leaps and bounds for tracking everything from legal briefs to IT equipment and even apparel for manufacturers that deliver to their own branded outlets, Everhart says. "These solutions now seem to be implemented beyond the pilot phase by companies that did ROI studies and determined they can gain benefits from what RFID has to offer," he adds.

Investor interest is also piqued by the opportunity to back a company that can innovate to meet emerging demands. In April, Alien announced the Higgs-3 integrated circuit, which builds in authentication and expanded user memory features designed for a range of applications—from airline baggage tracking to electronic pedigrees for pharmaceuticals.

If, as Everhart says, this last round of funding will make Alien "self-sustaining," it would be a good sign that RFID adoption is progressing rapidly.
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