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RFID Journal's Watch List: Technologies 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 technologies most likely to influence adoption, either positively or negatively.
By Elizabeth Wasserman
Dec 01, 2008—ournal's Watch List, intended to help you assess the future of radio frequency identification. This week, we'll focus on the technologies to watch; we profiled the companies and organizations last week, and the people the week before. Overall, we think there are many exciting developments on the horizon, so stay tuned.

By Elizabeth Wasserman

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.

Beam-Steerable Phased-Array Antennas
Developed by the U.S. military and NASA, beam-steerable phased-array antenna technology is now being employed for commercial use by startups Mojix and RF Controls. Both antenna systems use a focused, low-power, electronically steerable beam of RF energy to sweep a large area. When paired with EPC RFID-compliant readers, these "smart antennas" offer capabilities not possible with current passive ultrahigh-frequency systems. Receivers are more sensitive and can read tags from longer distances and locate tags in 3-D space. The ability of these systems to cover a larger area could lower the cost of deployment for companies and organizations, and the ability to read tags in three dimensions opens up new applications.

While hailed as a revolutionary, next-generation passive UHF solution, the technology still needs time to mature for commercial uses, says Michael Liard, research director of RFID and contactless technology at ABI Research. Three major consumer packaged goods manufacturers have successfully tested Mojix's STAR system: Kimberly-Clark in a manufacturing facility in Wisconsin, Kraft Foods in a warehouse in Germany, and Procter & Gamble in its distribution center in Massachusetts. But, Liard says, the technology needs to be vetted by a variety of companies to prove that it works in different environments and has a strong value proposition.
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