The Booming RFID Business in 2010

There is money in RFID. Alanco Technologies, which provides RFID-based inmate tracking systems, announced sales increased 42 percent to $19 million for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009. The U.S. Army continues to place the world’s largest RFID contracts at around $500 million each and many smaller orders that are still substantial. For instance, in October 2009, Savi, a Lockheed Martin company, was awarded orders totaling $6.6 million for RFID systems under the U.S. Department of Defense’s RFID III procurement contract. The RFID tags, which are affixed to cargo containers and other supply chain assets, comply with the ISO 18000-7 standard (also called DASH7), enabling near real-time supply visibility and interoperability with allied defense forces and government organizations.

All these activities involve active RFID, the type that is growing sales fastest, increasing its share of the RFID market. This can be seen from the world’s largest database of RFID projects, the IDTechEx RFID Knowledgebase which has over 4,000 case studies in 111 countries. Roughly speaking, active RFID has risen to about 24% of projects and a little less in terms of money spent—double its penetration a few years ago. These tags are mainly plastic moldings.

There are three types of active RFID system. First Generation is one tag per reader, the battery and chip in the tag usually enhancing range and/or managing sensors. Second Generation is Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) as particularly seen in US hospitals and car production lines in the last few years for locating people and assets. Usually several interrogators read each tag to give position in 3D. Finally, Third Generation is Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) which are self organising, self healing tag networks rather like the internet with every tag doubling as a reader. WSN sales (military, process industries etc.) have recently overtaken RTLS sales.