What is RFID?
RFID technology is poised for some significant advancements fueled by what analysts say will be more rapid growth in healthcare, retail, food safety, and other markets. The future of RFID is growing and expanding as more industries and companies invest in the technology. As a result, RFID is becoming more cost-effective than ever for solving real-world business challenges.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology uses electromagnetic fields to transmit data from an RFID tag to a reader, providing accurate, real-time tracking data. Unlike barcode scanners, RFID readers do not be pointed directly at a tag to get a scan. Instead, employees using RFID can get an accurate scan from several feet away and process dozens of scans in seconds.
While in the past RFID technology was limited to certain environments, there are now tags that can be used in harsh environments like extreme temperatures or chemical contaminants. RFID’s flexible applications, increased efficiencies, and cost-effectiveness have made it popular in a variety of industries.
Analyses and Predictions
Analysts have been predicting an explosion of RFID adoption for the past decade; the market, however, has grown slowly and steadily. A Research and Markets report, though, forecasts global sourcing of RFID tags to have a compound annual growth rate of 11% through 2025. That’s an $18.94 billion evaluation. Experts also anticipate rapid growth of RFID use in the pharmaceutical market for anti-counterfeiting applications.
Future RFID Innovations
Along with wider adoption, new technologies will help make RFID more reliable and cost-effective for a larger number of applications.
Innovative Manufacturing Will Create Durable and Versatile Tags
Advancements in printed electronics have helped create new classes of extremely thin, flexible RFID tags that can now be combined with printed sensors, printed batteries, thin-film photovoltaic solar cells, and other technologies. With new electronic printing and conductive ink technologies, companies could conceivably print their own chipless RFID tags on site.
There are also companies working on 3D printing technology that would enable direct printing of electronics in products as they are rendered. While the printing of RFID tags directly inside products may be several years away, the technology is rapidly evolving to do so.
New Antenna Designs Could Increase Range
The key to good tag performance is the antenna design. It’s the antenna that helps determine where and how a tag can be used, and how well it will perform. Over the next few years, expect to see new antennas and inlays as the competition for RFID antenna design heats up.
RFID tag antennas are important for getting RF signals around refractive and absorbent materials. Metals and liquids are the RFID kryptonite. Thus for some applications, an antenna above the tracked object is sufficient to get around metal or liquid.
Credit: Mika Baumeister
Increased Memory Will Create Smart Tags
Building intelligence into the tag and, by extension, the asset being tagged is another key activity. Expect tags with more memory at a lower cost to enable these “smart asset” applications. High-value assets will be an early application for this technology, as the cost of those assets will make it easier to amortize the increased cost of the more robust tags
This could be very promising for security applications where it might make sense for inventory to track its own attributes rather than distributing that information across a computer network. Defense and intelligence contractors especially stand to benefit from this technology.
Use Sensor Integration to Streamline Your Business
RFID will increasingly be one part of a whole ecosystem of sensors and communication technologies that will help companies better monitor and manage assets and shipments. Passive sensors for temperature, moisture, pressure, vibration and other factors will be combined with RFID to provide even more intelligence from the edge of the enterprise.
With advanced IoT applications, it may be possible to integrate RFID sensors into your industrial control systems. This can allow you to automate and streamline tasks that used to require a mediating technology or intervening employee.
Secure Your Data With New Cloud-Based Capabilities
RFID can potentially enable a whole host of new applications in the retail, healthcare, manufacturing and other sectors, but one stumbling block has always been management of the data flowing in from thousands of tags. With cloud-based applications and services taking the heavy lifting of IT support away from the point of activity, companies can now deploy centrally managed and centrally available solutions without the traditional support and deployment costs.
Cloud-based applications enable coordination from anywhere. Get real time updates on inventory across global supply chains, making just-in-time production possible across borders.
Flexible Printing Options
RFID tags can be printed at your facilities depending on the material you need the RFID tags to be made from. Printing can be done with industrial printers, desktop devices, and even mobile devices.
Additionally, printing materials can be tailored for specific uses such as high temperature environments and repeated stress. RFID media can also vary between durable hard tags and flexible inlays.
RFID technology allows you to integrate inventory and asset management into other business technologies. Enable real time work-in-process tracking, instant inventory audits, and reduced search times with any of a variety of RFID solutions.
In addition to mobile scanners, there are a number of fixed RFID tracking solutions that can monitor throughput in a variety of applications. Track items across assembly lines, through a distribution center, or around a warehouse.
Credit: Sam Moghadam Khamseh
In addition to the sustainability benefits of alleviating bottlenecks and gluts, RFID tags themselves are becoming available with environmentally sustainable options for materials and usage. The EU has established waste management standards that affect the use of RFID tags, particularly those intended to be single use. As manufacturers of RFID products come into compliance with these standards, RFID technology will be more environmentally friendly.
Final Thoughts and Takeaways
The RFID industry is about to enter an exciting period in which increased adoption will provide the means for technology providers to invest in new, exciting innovations. Along with the new developments described above, advancements in materials, organic polymers, nanotechnology, and other areas will change the way RFID is incorporated into products. Instead of a tag attached to a garment, for example, an RFID transponder could be printed directly into cloth or packaging using biodegradable conductive inks.
The future of RFID is here, so both end users and RFID manufacturers should be prepared to leverage these new technologies and ready themselves for more widespread use of RFID. To get started with RFID technology or to learn more, contact Lowry Solutions today to schedule a consultation.