One of the best things about having expertise in the RFID industry is attending the world’s largest conference and exhibition focused on radio frequency identification and related technologies. Now in its 20th year, this year’s RFID Journal LIVE! featured more than 80 exhibitors from 26 countries. The conference showcased best-in-class RFID tags, readers, software, and implementation services.
For me, the May gathering allowed me to reconnect with customers and long-time friends from RFID manufacturing and services that I have known for years. I took this opportunity to ask them and other leaders at the conference about the state of the market today. What trends do they see, and where is the industry headed? Here is what I heard.
IoT Wireless Technologies Are Playing Together
Vendors representing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), WiFi, Low Frequency, High Frequency, and Radio Frequency Identification (RAIN) are collaborating to strengthen the industry. Increasingly, vendors from each of these wireless segments are represented at the show.
Link Labs, Wiliot, Veritise, and Microsensys were just a few of the booths touting IoT technologies. The vendors I spoke with agree that depending on the application, each type of wireless technology can serve specific niches for IoT data capture. But they also pointed out that the industry needs to provide unified approaches to harmonize communication across all these layered technologies.
We also need to make it easy for users to layer the information into their IT systems. Jason Warschauer, Engineering Director at Unified Information Devices, said, “The magic is making the technologies playing together transparent to the user.”
The Chip Shortage
The buzz at the convention included lots of conversation about Walmart’s recent announcement to expand its use of passive ultra-high frequency RFID tags significantly. At the leadership level, hot topics also included the lack of chip supply.
Label providers like SML and Hana RFID purposefully connected with brand owners from apparel, home goods, sporting goods, and other industries to discuss the challenge of meeting demand. Unfortunately, the problems associated with the supply chain mean many vendors will not be able to serve new customers for more than a year.
Unsurprisingly, among RFID chip providers, much of their effort to innovate is focused on redesigning products to eliminate hard-to-supply chips.
RFID in Healthcare
Simon Dawkins, a senior consultant with software developer RFID Discovery, told me COVID-19 had put a lot of pressure on hospitals, especially regarding time management and staff resources. He said that RFID technology is helping them to be proactive instead of reactive in addressing these challenges.
Britain’s National Health Service estimated that nurses spend one hour per day (40 hours per month) looking for medical devices. As a result, hospitals are looking to implement an RFID trial to learn how it saves time, improves workflow, and ultimately provides better quality of care.
HID Global mentioned they are expanding vertically and horizontally with their acquisition of Vizinex RFID for healthcare. The company has also acquired Omni-ID, a leading manufacturer of RFID tags and industrial IoT devices for passive and active tagging, tracking, monitoring, and alerting applications.
Beontag announced its acquisition of Confidex, one of the world’s leading providers of RFID, NFC (near field communications), and BLE solutions for industries, logistics, and mobility. The announcement followed the company’s acquisition of Lab- ID (Italy), Digital Tags (France), Temera (Italy), and Stora Enso’s Ecotag technology.
Beontag started in 2011 with the merger of two industry giants in Brazil: RR Etiquetas, the country’s largest converter of self-adhesive labels for retail, industry, and services, and Colacril, the largest Brazilian manufacturer of self-adhesive labels. This was the first year for Beontag to exhibit at the show. The company sponsors the RAIN RFID event in Helsinki on June 14-16.
Judging from the energy at RFID Journal LIVE, the industry appears is poised for a fresh new chapter. New vendors from around the world made their debut, which was a joy to see following the isolation of the pandemic. One vendor, SMAG Graphique, mentioned they had been in business for 40 years, but it was their first time to exhibit.
Mark your calendars: the next RFID Journal LIVE show is May 9-11, 2023, again in Orlando. I hope to see you there!