A growing problem for businesses is managing inventory and providing a stellar customer experience in light of continuing supply chain challenges. Businesses are increasingly turning to RFID-powered tools that deliver a wide range of benefits.
RFID is projected to increase significantly over the coming decade, thanks in major part to expanded use in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in retail, for industrial applications, and within the transportation logistics field. Here is what we can expect for the future of RFID in 2023 and beyond.
What is RFID Technology?
RFID is short for Radio Frequency Identification, which is a technology using electromagnetic fields to transfer data from an RFID tag to a reader, providing real-time and accurate data. Unlike barcode scanners, RFID readers don’t require a direct line of sight to be scanned. Instead, multiple tags can be scanned simultaneously as long as they pass “near” the reader.
RFID systems can be either active or passive. With an active RFID system, both the RFID tags and scanners have their own power sources. Active tags will transmit data either continuously or when prompted by a reader.
With a passive RFID system, which is more widely used and affordable, only the reader or scanner is powered. It sends a signal to the RFID tags, which reflect the data back to the reader and the system.
RFID tags can be attached to and embedded in a variety of items in different ways. They can be attached to packers, mounted on pallets, or affixed to machinery and equipment.
Predictions for the Growth of RFID
RFID might seem like a new innovation, but it’s been around for decades. The technology traces its roots back to World War II when Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt figured out a way to use radio signals to distinguish between friendly and enemy aircraft. The first U.S. patent for RFID was awarded to a California entrepreneur, Charles Walton, in 1973. Commercial use of the technology didn’t take hold until the 1990s, however.
But RFID use and innovation are growing by leaps and bounds. According to a Research and Markets report, global use of RFID technology is expected to reach a value of $18.94 billion by 2025, which is an 11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Common RFID Solutions in 2023
Many businesses aren’t aware of the ways RFID can improve their operations. But RFID tags seem to be popping up in many different industries to solve a variety of challenges. These affordable, simple, and scalable solutions are an ideal technology for innovators who want to save time, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and boost customer satisfaction. Here are some of the applications for RFID you can expect to see now and in the future:
1. Asset Tracking
RFID tags are being used to track high-value assets like machinery, vehicles, and tools. This type of tracking can prevent theft and save time when trying to locate assets.
2. Healthcare Tracking
The healthcare industry is using RFID for a variety of purposes. For example, pharmaceutical companies are tracking pills using the technology, and healthcare providers are using it to track medical records and other patient information.
3. Making Payments
You may have already made payments using RFID and not realized it. If you’ve ever made a contactless payment using a credit card, you’ve used an RFID chip. Some people are now using wearables that can make payments as well.
4. Event Management
Disposable RFID hangtags or wristbands can be used to manage crowds at various events and facilities. For example, RFID wristbands can manage various access levels at music festivals and amusement parks as well as monitor the use of facilities like restrooms.
5. Next-Generation ID Cards
RFID technology is being used to manage physical access to facilities as well as to track attendance and time. For example, passports use RFID technology to store biometric data about each passport holder.
6. Home Automation
Homeowners have grown increasingly fond of their “smart home” automation solutions. RFID technology contributes to this by using tags to regulate lighting and temperature in a home.
7. Animal Tracking
Farmers and conservation groups are using RFID tags to track and monitor the movement of wildlife as well as to learn more about the habits of certain species.
8. Inventory Tracking
Inventory tracking is one of the most prominent uses for RFID technology. Placing RFID tags on individual products allows businesses to streamline the inventory management process and inject real-time visibility into the supply chain.
What Is the Future of RFID Technology?
Some of the primary benefits of RFID technology are that it increases operational efficiency, is simple to integrate, mitigates human error, and is cost-effective. As you can see, RFID already has many uses. Here are just a few predictions on the future of RFID.
More Versatile and Durable Tags
Advancements in electronics printing have helped produce new types of incredibly flexible and thin RFID tags that can be combined with printed batteries, printed sensors, and various other technologies. At some point, RFID tags will be printed directly onto products and packaging.
One of the benefits of RFID is its ability to read multiple tags simultaneously. But from how far? That depends on many factors, such as the strength of the reader and the antenna. This technology is continuing to improve. RFID tags will eventually have a greater ability to penetrate materials like liquids and metals.
RFID tags hold some vital information, like product descriptions, item numbers, and more. In the future, these tags will have more memory, allowing them to store and distribute more information.
RFID will increasingly become integrated as part of an entire system of communication technologies that helps businesses better monitor their inventory, shipments, and assets.
We’ve seen many different new technologies ushered in over the past few years in response to supply chain disruptions. From businesses going completely remote to ongoing issues related to transparency and the customer experience, it’s safe to assume that technology will continue to evolve to offer improvements. Fortunately, RFID offers businesses many ways to inject visibility into the supply chain, save costs, and deliver a better customer experience.