IDTechEx's leading RFID Europe 2008 event, staged in Cambridge, UK, once again led the field in delivering an excellent show for all attendees. Lawrence Archard from uPBeat Product Development commented, "RFID Europe has been a success for me. I have nurtured existing relationships and built new ones, whilst learning the latest in technological developments. Every day has been very worthwhile."
This year there were 22 exhibitors - more than any other RFID event in Europe. There were many new exhibitors from the USA, Asia and Europe, covering a wide range of technologies from Active RFID, RTLS and Sensor Networks, Near Field Communication, RFID systems, breakthroughs in HF and UHF RFID and RFID Manufacture. Hot topics included RFID in aerospace, use in hostile environments, such as concrete and surgeons' tools, as well as asset tracking through real time locating systems, particularly in hospitals.
Opinions were divided about whether there are too many RFID companies and if consolidation is needed. Certainly, one venture capitalist in the Investment Forum said there is no need for consolidation, and gold sponsor Scanology was one of many smaller RFID companies seeing record orders. Scanology has resolved the problems with reading baggage RFID tags in many airports. Medium sized player, Lyngsoe Systems, has also prospered in this application, and is already serving airports in Italy, China, Portugal, Denmark and Dubai - despite some of the world's largest companies also showing an interest. Some large companies have been acquiring the more promising smaller RFID companies with Assa Abloy and Zebra Technologies showing commendable focus on only certain applications and leveraging key skills; but there are few like them.
Record End-User Attendance
Many end-users attended and lectured, giving the needs of the US military, casinos, data centres, bookshops, the construction industry, aerospace, hospitals, the London transport system and much more. Start-up, Loc8tor, is flooded with orders, not least because it's locating device is featured in the new Duracell advertisement. Wi-Fi RFID is increasingly used for traditional applications in addition to Real Time Locating Systems. These applications need no infrastructure, whereas Wi-Fi RTLS invariably calls for some enhancement of the existing Wi-Fi network that is used. We were reminded that one of the most successful RTLS systems in hospitals is not RFID but ultrasound based, thanks to Sonitor Technologies.
LF and Microwave Passive RFID Losing Market Share
The conference made it clear that LF and microwave passive RFID is losing market share as most applications of passive RFID migrate to HF and UHF. To that extent at least, the world is becoming a simpler place. Breakthroughs in the technology for both of these frequencies are coming thick and fast and they were thoroughly rehearsed. UHF gets a boost from the pallet, case, tire and air baggage standards and HF gets a boost from the boom in cards, tickets and library tagging and the imminent take-off in NFC mobile phones that can be used to purchase things.
Active RFID Growing
With active RFID, the bigger representation in the lectures and exhibits reflected the bigger share of the market that active is now grabbing. It was clear that Ultra Wide Band is the next big thing in that it is accepted as the highest performing RTLS on most criteria (Ubisense), but it is now also set to boost Wireless Sensor Network, Third Generation Active RFID, saleability as IEEE 802.15.4a brings it to the user level, 'Phy'. Speaker DecaWave is working on this with an appropriate chip on the way.
IDTechEx will shortly release a new report, Wireless Sensor Mesh Networks 2009-2019, to cover this new wave of adoption of active RFID, involving, as it does, almost entirely different companies from those usually involved in RFID. WSN will be well covered, together with the booming RTLS business, in the IDTechEx conference, "Active RFID, RTLS & Sensor Networks" in Dallas, USA, November 5-6, www.IDTechEx.com/Active.
Printing Transistors now Imminent for Passive RFID
As for passive RFID, printing transistors to the world's most lucrative RFID specification - ISO 14443 - is now imminent and printed RFID will be extensively explored in the IDTechEx conference, "Printed Electronics USA" San Jose, December 3-4 www.IDTechEx.com/peUSA. As the IDTechEx RFID Knowledgebase covers in detail, there are now over 3600 RFID projects in 109 countries, as this becomes a truly global phenomenon.
Next year RFID Europe will move to Munich, Germany. Stay updated at www.IDTechEx.com/RFIDeurope