Guest Column: RFID in 2006 – A Story of Extremes

A look back at the ups and down for the radio frequency identification market


Hot Countries for RFID

IDTechEx keeps a close eye on which countries are eagerly adopting RFID and which are not. Our sources include intensive traveling, conferences, literature searches and our IDTechEx RFID Knowledgebase of over 2400 case studies covering over 2600 organizations and 91 countries. The results are rather surprising.

Firstly, the United States is the greatest adopter, with by far the largest number of cases of RFID in action and orders that are often the world's largest by value. It has even pulled ahead in the last year, with over 840 recorded projects. More surprising is the UK holding second place by number of cases, though not the money spent, where China has more claim to fame and Korea and Japan are strong rivals.

The top 10 countries by number of case studies did not look like this only one year ago. China and Korea have jumped up a notch and, remarkably, Australia has jumped from number 10 to number seven. When we saw the unusual activity in Australia we focused research onto the region for a new report, "RFID in Australasia 2007-2017," and we reveal some of the results here. New Zealand is a follower, with the exception of the work of Fonterra, the world's largest milk cooperative.

What is going on in Australia? The rapid advance of Australia in RFID is on a broad front, from books in libraries to tagging of humans in hospitals, but one could say that about many countries. What sets Australia apart from most of its peers are aspects such as the legal requirement to tag cattle and racehorses, and the trials and rollouts of tagging fish, tomatoes and other foods by its vibrant food industry. Australia will not stop there. It is likely to introduce legislation to tag all four-legged livestock ahead of most other countries. With the major trading blocs finding reasons to protect their food industries, external suppliers such as Australia, with the world's largest population of sheep, must be beyond suspicion. RFID is a part of that.

RFID Sectors Taking Off

Other sectors of the RFID business are booming. Andrew Price, RFID manager at IATA, the airline trade association, enthuses: "In the next few years the air industry will be tagging an ever higher proportion of its two billion bags yearly, and it will use RFID in other new applications as well." This is a global phenomenon, not least in government applications. Dr Jimmy Li, deputy director of the Initiative Office for Government RFID Applications at the Ministry of Economic Affairs Taiwan and Senior Advisor of the Institute for Information Industry in Taiwan, says, "Government applications of RFID are now growing rapidly. We started five RFID projects in the government area this year and there are more to come next year."

Steve Georgevitch, Total Asset Visibility program manager of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, says, "The aerospace and defense industries are on a rapid RFID adoption path with substantial benefits anticipated in the next several years."

Martin Capper, president, Mark IV IVHS Division, says, "Mark IV sees RFID as an explosive market, particularly in the Transportation segment, with the evolution from the existing electronic payment systems to new applications delivering safety and mobility for both individuals and commercial traffic. The emergence of DSRC at 5.9GHz will create the next paradigm shift in surface transportation."

There are also new markets opening up beyond transport. Dr Chang-Hun Lee of the National Information Society Agency, Korea says, "Ubiquitous Sensor Networks will be a huge RFID market in a few years."

RFID tagging of livestock is driven by ever-wider legislation. For example, the European Community and New Zealand join the party in 2008-2010, creating a market for tagging sheep, goats, pigs and cows, the total demand for these two regions being over 150 million tags yearly at about $2 each in 2010 from almost none today. Add a big demand for systems to that figure. The largest bookseller in the Netherlands, BGN, is ordering several million tags yearly for its new scheme, and its payback is so compelling that others will rapidly follow.

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