Expected applications range from tagging of animals (pets and livestock), cars and armaments to pallets, cases and individual item packaging or labels. Some of the theoretical potential of RFID technology butts up against privacy concerns. This includes applications such as embedding tags in magazines for readership studies or into catalogs to facilitate ordering.
To the extent production of RFID tags, antennae and batteries evolves as e-paper on a smaller scale, there’s potential for the printing industry to benefit further.
ABI Research, of New York City, offered an assessment of this development in a study released earlier this year, titled “Printed Electronics in the RFID Tag Industry.” In summarizing its findings, the research firm noted that, “Printed electronics have the potential to transform the RFID industry…but their impact will not be significant for some years to come.”
Still, printed antennae, transistors and batteries could eventually change the dynamics of the RFID industry, says industry analyst Sara Shah. “They would allow manufacturers and distributors to create their own ‘smart packaging’ and bypass the whole, long RFID tag production chain.”
According to the study, printed antennae that operate in either the high or ultra-high frequency bands are available now, and a large proportion of UHF RFID antennae could be produced this way. The outlook is less bullish for printed transistors.
“When printed transistors arrive in 2008, they won’t be able to compete with silicone transistors,” says Shah. “With their low frequency operation and incompatibility with existing readers, they will not be suitable for open loop supply chains until standards emerge for item-level LF (low frequency) tagging.”
Change almost always takes longer than people expect. What may be most important to take away is that the uncertainty is in when, not if, printable electronics/e-paper will have an impact. zz
E-paper Set to Be Read All Over