Guest viewpoint: rising numbers of orders to quintuple RFID market over the next decade

Feb. 7, 2008
CAMBRIDGE, England, 7 Feb. 2008. The quintupling of the RFID market in the next ten years is being driven by larger orders and more orders every year.

By Dr. Peter Harrop

CAMBRIDGE, England, 7 Feb. 2008. The quintupling of the RFID market in the next ten years is being driven by larger orders and more orders every year.

On cue, in January 2008 the Chinese system integrator ACS landed an order for $500 million to upgrade the non stop tolling RFID system in New York. Two years ago, just replacing one third of the active RFID tags on the New Jersey Turnpike called for $26 million of business and we shall see much more RFID in transport in the future.

Of course, high reward often comes with high risk so this can be an activity best done by large companies. Also in January this year, transport card system integrator ERG of Australia identified its losses to be approximately $250 million from the NSW Government's termination of its Tcard RFID contract, and it is considering legal action. ERG announced that it had only received approximately $13 million from its $350 million 2003 Agreement with PTTC to install and maintain the Tcard over ten years. ERG says it has successfully delivered similar programs in San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other cities.

It is significant that the largest RFID order placed this year is to a Chinese supplier. Other Chinese suppliers such as Huahong Microelectronics and Watchdata Technologies, both rising up the top twenty RFID companies in the world, are also targeting exports, having built a very strong home base. Last year's story was the size of Chinese demand for RFID on the back of city cards and the $6 billion national ID card scheme but those are now largely complete and attention returns to the USA which will probably regain its position as the world's largest RFID market in 2008, with deliveries against that ACS order, the Savi Technology $425 million military order and much more besides.

Multiplier effect

New sectors are also coming alive in the United States. For example, BP, the oil major, has 50 RFID projects being progressed at any one time -- mostly in the United States. Its "cookie cutter" approach means that a successful RFID project is then duplicated across the world. One example is the successful use of the new Ultra Wide Band RFID for the most accurate, interference free tracing of personnel in three dimensions to optimize evacuation in emergencies. It has successfully installed this in its Cherry Point Refinery in New York. Time Domain, Multispectral Solutions and Ubisense are leading suppliers of UWB RFID. Ubisense, as an example, only started as a business five years ago yet it now has over 220 clients.

The RFID Smart Labels United States 2008 conference will be Feb. 20-21 in Boston ( Presenters will include BP, Boeing, Nokia, Coca-Cola, Kimberley Clark and Ford. IATA covers the boom in RFID in the air industry, Savi Technology, which serves the military and heavy logistics markets, and the U.S. Army.

A highlight this year is how the traditional HF RFID, responsible for over 50 percent of all money spent on RFID, is about to take a great leap forward with improvements of ten times in chip cost, multitag reading, reader power economy and much more besides, even the traditional range limitations being spectacularly breached. The many, often little known, companies driving these startling new technical advances will all be speaking -- Kovio, CRT, Magellan, FAS, APT and more, this being leveraged by TAGSYS, for example, pioneering the new EPC HF standard and the advent of NFC RFID enabled mobile phones that will be sold in billions -- HF of course. The Paris transport system RATP and others will describe how they will use those phones and Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer and power behind the Symbian operating system will also present.

The conference also deals with large orders being landed for UHF and LF passive systems. Speaker Digital Angel, for instance, has $20 million of orders for LF readers used in fish conservation. Active RFID, notable Real Time Locating Systems RTLS and RFID with sensing is increasing its share of the RFID pie. Suppliers describing the latest here include AeroScout, Ekahau, PowerID, TagSense, Awarepoint and Time Domain Corporation.

Dr. Peter Harrop is chief executive officer of IDTechEx Ltd in Cambridge, England, an independent market researcher radio frequency identification (RFID), printed electronics, and smart packaging. Contact the company online at

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