Millions Required for RFID R&D to Create "Internet of Things"

End users and academics at MIT conference identify research projects across several industries that will require investments over the next five years

End users and academics at MIT conference identify research projects across several industries that will require investments over the next five years

Cambridge, MA — February 10, 2006 — Radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies will require millions of dollars in research funding over the next half decade to develop the key infrastructure necessary to create an "Internet of Things," according to participants in last week's RFID Academic Convocation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

At the conference held at the university in Cambridge, leading end users and representatives from academia identified research projects across several industries that will require tens of millions of dollars in investments over the next five years. Among the areas that will require research funds are network protocol standards, specialized tags for airplane and auto parts, applications for micro- and nano-manufacturing technologies, innovative bio and material sciences development in packaging.

"There is simply an enormous amount of applied research that needs to be done to move RFID forward and realize the dream of creating the Internet of Things," said John Williams, director of the MIT Auto-ID Labs, which hosted the invitation-only event.

Drawing the Technology Roadmap

The aim of the RFID Academic Convocation, which was attended by 100 leaders in RFID, was to identify opportunities for research collaboration with RFID researchers from around the world, define core technology research areas needed to meet industry RFID requirements and begin a to draw a technology road map for those market opportunities and technologies.

Williams presented details of an RFID global simulator development effort chartered by EPCglobal Architecture Review Committee under the auspices of the Auto-ID Network Research Special Interest Group (SIG). He said that "the Internet of Things to make billions of physical objects visible over the Web will require a secure and scaleable infrastructure that is more challenging to build than the original Internet."

Dick Cantwell, vice president of Procter & Gamble/Gillette and chairman of the EPCglobal board of governors, challenged attendees to move the EPC network "from PowerPoint to reality."

Forming a Partnership

Alan Thorne of the Cambridge University Auto-ID Labs and Ken Porad, program manager for automated identification programs at Boeing, spoke about the Dreamliner Specifications for RFID and the requirement to equip and test subassemblies with active RFID tags that record maintenance histories, as Airbus and Boeing look to optimize spare parts maintenance management. Given that airplane parts operate under harsh conditions and last for decades, new tags will need to be designed to meet the industry's needs. And methods and standards for synchronizing parts histories on tags and in databases need to be developed.

A panel discussion with Mike Rose, vice president of supply chain for Johnson & Johnson, together with Thomas Pizzutto, director of RFID technology and strategies at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Ted Ng, Director of Emerging Technology with McKesson, and Robert Celeste of the EPCglobal HLS Business Action Group, identified additional RFID research areas requiring collaboration in the health and life sciences sector. These include data sharing, security, serialization, RF effects on chemical bonds and thermal effects, RFID integration with other authentication technologies.

"This was a critical event as industry and academia form a partnership to take RFID forward," said Ng. "Those of us in industry came away with a better understanding of the research being done around the world, and I think the researchers came away with a better understanding of the needs of the various industries represented at the event."

Next Conference Set

Stephen Miles, a researcher at the MIT Auto-ID Labs and Conference committee chair, estimated that the total cost of the required research could be more than $100 million over the next five years. End users expressed an interest in working with researchers to help fund some of the required research, but more work needs to be done to map out the work that needs to be done.

Bill Hardgrave has been nominated by the Conference Committee to co-chair the next RFID Academic Convocation with Steve Miles of the MIT Auto-ID Labs on May 1 in Las Vegas in conjunction with an RFID industry conference and exhibition. RFID researchers who are interested in participating are invited to join one of the research areas identified at the Convocation or to initiate a new sponsored research area by going to the RFID Academic Convocation Online Community Web site hosted by MIT Auto-ID Labs at

Additional Articles of Interest

— RFID technology has the potential to change the way supply chains are managed, but in order to be effective businesses need to take a holistic look at the deployment. Read more in the article "Time for RFID: Applying RFID in the Supply Chain."

— For a contrary view of the future of the RFID market, see the article "The O'RFID Factor: A 'No Spin' Look at Where Radio Frequency Identification Is Headed," in the October/November 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

— For more information on trends relating to radio frequency identification (RFID), follow this link for an extensive listing of articles, featuring the latest research findings on the RFID, including adoption, return on investment and barriers to implementation.