There is more than meets the eye. In addition to access control and asset tracking, RFID via smart cards is now suitable for cashless vending, transit applications and other stored-value applications.
Prospects for the global RFID market, according to Frost & Sullivan, look upbeat as rapid advances in technology have spiked adoption across different verticals. The overall market earned revenues between US$3 and $4 billion in 2009, and it will witness a CAGR of more than 12 percent until 2016. RFID tags accounted for more than 50 percent of the world's RFID revenues in 2009, with figures reaching between $1.5 and $2.5 billion. More features and capabilities are being added for better performance and accuracy.
Companies are striving for operational efficiency in processing, especially in controlling asset integrity and in improving inventory visibility in the supply chain, to stoke business progression. Emerging applications have the potential to unleash new opportunities for growth in the market. “Convergence of RFID with other technologies, such as real-time locating systems and Wi-Fi, will be a strong trend in the coming years for niche applications, adding intelligence to business-processing needs,” said Susan Sahayan, Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “Active RFID technology incorporated in wireless sensor networks is another development that is gaining traction and creating more possibilities.”
Changing With Times
RFID, especially card-based technologies, remains the bulk of the market as it is the most readily understood and accepted technology, said Patrick Lim, Director of Sales and Marketing, Ademco Far East.
Historically, demand for RFID cards was mainly related to ticketing/ pass applications. “As a result of standardization and a considerable decrease in prices, vertical markets that rely heavily on plastic cards are all headed toward adopting RFID: education, leisure and entertainment, and secured access control to any premises,” said Eric Bouvard, Product Marketing Manager at Evolis.
Heightened security concerns have accelerated the uses of biometric technology and RFID in access control. “In APAC, there are more and more smart-card deployments integrated with biometrics implemented across different verticals, including government agencies, border control, banking and health care,” said Jordan Cullis, Sales Director of Identity and Access Management Solutions for Australia and New Zealand, HID Global (an Assa Abloy company).
Government-driven standards increasingly impact the industry. For example, one of the primary objectives of HID's recent federal identity mandates is to fulfill the promise of converged physical and logical security as envisioned by the 2004 Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). “According to a February 2011 memorandum issued by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of Management and Budget, starting next fiscal year, existing physical and logical access control systems must be upgraded to use personal-identification verification credentials, in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines. These systems must leverage smart-card and biometric technology and support identification credentials,” Cullis said. One of the most promising uses of RFID technology is for border control. For example, the DHS is deploying a solution to all U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico border crossings that reads RFID-enabled driving licenses as vehicles approach the border, and combines this with ALPR and video surveillance to improve the efficiency and convenience of crossing the border in vehicles, said John Kendall, Director of Security Programs for APAC, Unisys. “RFID can also be incorporated to speed up processes to increase convenience and improve customer experience. For example, Unisys worked with Australia's Qantas Airlines to enable self-service baggage check-in for VIP flyers.”
For Unisys, growth comes from asset management of data centers, construction sites and hospitals. “Hospitals and medical centers have a vast array of expensive assets,” said Mike Rodgers, Executive Architect, Unisys. “With RFID, we can control and manage the assets' location, status and report on utilization; we can monitor blood temperature and know instantly if the right blood has been brought for a specific patient.”
NFC = Game Changer
Further developments on active transponders are underway. “Near-field communication (NFC) brings about exciting applications,” said Hans-Gernot Illig, CEO of SimonsVoss Technologies. “We recently introduced our first NFC solution, which allows for the downloading of access authorizations to NFC-enabled smartphones. This has great market potential for home care and field maintenance.”
The highest growth in RFID is experienced in payment processes in verticals such as transportation, education, leisure and financial institutions. “Financial institutions have adopted e-purse or NFC-based payments, and these require the deployment of new technologies, security features and PoS terminals. The current magnetic or smart card has evolved to embed RFID features so that they are compliant with the new equipment,” Bouvard explained.