In 2012 the value of the entire RFID market was $7.67 billion, up from $6.51 billion in 2011. This includes tags, readers and software/services for RFID cards, labels, fobs and all other form factors. This growing industry will no doubt change the way we interact with the world around us.
Experts believe that RFID will be ubiquitous in 20 years, this may be hard to believe if you are not one of the businesses on the cutting edge of RFID, but many have adopted this technology to reduce costs and streamline operations. The benefits they gain as a result of this adoption are real and there is no turning back.
RFID Market Projections in USD Billions
RFID Tags Are Getting Cheaper and More Commonplace
For a long time the barrier for adoption was the unit cost per RFID tag. The cost per tag was just too high for many businesses to justify the initial start up costs for implementing this technology. In the past, many experts in the field believe that the magic tipping point is $.05 per tag, which is available today.
Interestingly enough, there are some in the RFID industry now claiming that the true tipping point will be at $.01 per tag. Of course, we always want things to be better, faster, cheaper. No matter which low cost level will be achieved in the future, the early adopters of RFID constantly show better sales growth in comparison to their peers, and as competitors take notice of this and decide to implement RFID the price tag will continue to drop.
Innovation of the Future: Chipless Printable RFID Tags
As a response to the common but very costly silicon chip RFID tags there has been development in creating chipless RFID tags to reduce unit cost. These non silicon tags can be 3D printed using various materials depending on the use of the tag. With this development the potential for cost reduction in RFID is greater than before and potential for more specialized tags based on industry will also increase.
This is just one case of innovation in lowering cost of RFID tags, the future will bring new methods that we have yet to imagine.
What Will the Future Bring?
Everyone agrees that the future of RFID is not set in stone, but with forecasts and expert opinions we can make very educated guesses of what this future will bring. Kevin Ashton, former chairman for MIT’s Auto-ID Center, claims that technology has evolved with each century in the last 200 years with a distinct purpose. According to Ashton, the 1800’s was the era of the automation of work, while the 1900’s was the era of automated knowledge. Today we embark on the era of automated perception - which he dubs “The Sensor Age”.
The amount of data that is collected today via barcodes or simply through a computer keyboard is greater than ever, the Sensor Age will change the way that this data is collected - and RFID will pave the way for this autonomous data collection.
RFID has the potential to streamline production beyond what is available today, increasing efficiency, and accuracy. In part this could create a better more intuitive way of living for everyone in the world. In a larger scale RFID could be a tool that enables us to feed millions and bring health care and aide to those who need it most all around the world.
We Can Forecast the Lifecycle of RFID
To help us better understand the trajectory of RFID innovation and the future of this technology it is useful to reference the Gartner “hype” Cycle. This theory proposes that innovation has 5 distinct stages:
The technology trigger. The event that generates interest in a new technology or idea.
Peak of inflated expectations. The height of excitement about the future of a new technology, which is usually brought about by the overinflated expectations of the technology that have been kindled by technology dreamers and the press.
Trough of disillusionment. The disappointment of a technology that did not live up to its most extreme expectations.
Slope of enlightenment. Hard research and development efforts produce realistic expectations and methodologies required to implement the technology in a real-world solution.
Plateau of productivity. The technology becomes stable and the technology becomes beneficial to adopt and implement.
For RFID to reach stage 5 of the cycle, it must be simplified in both understanding and practice. As RFID becomes more consumer friendly in design and consumers become more educated on the benefits of this technology, RFID will move into the “Plateau of Productivity”.
A great example of a technology that achieved a full cycle of innovation is email. In the early 1990’s it was practically impossible to find anyone who had an email account, and then suddenly just what seems like a few years later not having an email is simply unheard of. Experts believe that RFID will sneak up on the world much in the same way.
RFID is Crucial to The Internet of Things
Most people have heard of the “Internet of Things” by now, or IoT, it is the belief that our computer devices will be connected within an internet infrastructure therefore allowing all devices to communicate with each other in a sense
An example of this is the Nest thermometer which can be controlled remotely with a smartphone application and can “learn” your habits when it comes to adjusting the temperature in your home. In the long term it adapts to your comings and goings and is able to lower the temperature when you are not in your home to decrease your heating bill.
IoT is one for the most popular trends in the technology industry today and an important component to creating this technology is RFID. Although IoT is not even close to reaching its potential, RFID tags will be the building blocks of this technological revolution.
The Internet of Things is slightly behind RFID in the Gartner Hype Cycle of Innovation. The belief is that IoT still must pass through the “Trough of Disillusionment” in which the public will push back on this trend. It will still take many years for IoT to reach is full potential and become the engine of perception and productivity it is meant to be.
RFID is a more developed technology and it will reach this stage earlier. As with most technologies this change will seem to happen overnight and companies who have not spent years developing and adopting RFID products could wind up missing out.