May 25, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.
May 25, 2007—Research firm In-Stat has released the 2007 update to its annual report on the market for WiFi-based real-time location systems (RTLS) of the sort used to track medical assets in hospitals, heavy equipment in mines, and parcels for express delivery services. WiFi-based RTLS, as compared to RTLS based on other technologies, has the advantage of being deployable using an enterprise's existing WiFi infrastructure; other RTLS technologies typically require an enterprise to deploy entirely new infrastructure in addition to the tags themselves.
One of the key findings from In-Stat's research is that WiFi RTLS tag shipments hit 135,000 last year. That figure represents an explosion of demand over 2005, when tag shipments reached only 20,000. Very strong growth in tag shipments is projected to continue through 2010; In-Stat predicts a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 100%. While not as explosive as the almost 700% growth seen from 2005 to 2006, a three-year 100% CAGR is enviable indeed. In-Stat also noted that the unit price of WiFi tags has decreased from about $50 to $45. The average unit price is expected to decrease further this year, to $30.
In addition to the falling price of tags, improved battery life is a key contributor to market growth. In-Stat credits RTLS chip technology firm G2 Microsystems with these advancements. G2 last year introduced an RTLS chip that was cheaper, smaller, and more energy efficient than previously available technology (see New Chip Could Transform Active RFID Market). A number of RTLS providers have subsequently introduced new tag products based on the G2 chip.
When RFID Update covered In-Stat's research last year (see Report: 2 Million RTLS Tags Shipped in 2010), the healthcare industry was the leading customer of WiFi RTLS because the high value of commonly lost or misplaced assets like wheelchairs and medical equipment justified the relatively expensive cost of tags. That trend continued in 2006, as hospitals accounted for the majority of announced WiFi RTLS deployments. In-Stat noted, however, that the hospital market is a challenging one to penetrate due to the limited scalability of the sales process. Hospitals typically make technology purchasing decisions independently, not as a centralized group, meaning RTLS deployments have to be sold hospital by hospital. (As an aside, WiFi RTLS providers have been actively striking reseller deals with large technology providers to address the sales scalability issue. Ekahau, for example, recently signed an agreement with both Siemens Communications and 3M. AeroScout has agreements with Philips Medical Systems and NEC Unified Solutions, as well as a formalized partner program.)
In addition to healthcare, In-Stat cited heavy manufacturing, transportation, and logistics as key markets for WiFi RTLS.
As for the competitive landscape of the WiFi RTLS market, In-Stat found AeroScout to be in a particularly strong position relative to other vendors. The report author told RFID Update that the company enjoys "well over 50%" market share in terms of number of tags shipped. In-Stat cited two key advantages that have helped AeroScout. The first is its close relationship with giant router manufacturer Cisco (see Cisco, AeroScout Team to Market WiFi RFID). The second is that its technology can serve large outdoor environments where other WiFi RTLS technology might not perform well.
Entitled Where is It? - The Worldwide Market for Wi-Fi RFID, In-Stat's report contains detailed projections for worldwide WiFi RTLS tag shipments and revenues. It also offers market share information and analysis of the various RTLS standards and technologies.