RFID Trends: What's Ahead in 2017, Part 2

Leading solution providers speak out on the business and technology issues that will impact adoption in the near future.
By Jennifer Zaino

Technology Innovations on the Horizon
Many of the experts agree that important innovations are happening in regard to core RFID performance and form factors. Ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive RFID tag read range has been improving at roughly 10 percent per year, says Chris Diorio, Impinj's CEO, and that trend shows no sign of abating any time soon.

"Reader hardware is becoming smaller and more powerful," Schaefer says. "As these trends continue, we will see RFID capabilities in an increasing number of devices, and, potentially, it will cross over from a business-enterprise technology to a consumer technology."

There will be a "broader range of RFID tags that work well with health and beauty, accessories and other highly profitable merchandise for specialty retailers and department stores," Cooduvalli says, and antenna design will be optimized for small, hard-to-tag items, such as cosmetics. He also expects to see improved performance of RFID tags on metal and liquids, which has applicability to a wide range of industries, including consumer goods.

Infrastructure will evolve in terms of RF design optimization and sensitivity to better accommodate the option, where it makes sense, of a more hands-free RFID approach, Melo says. It's part of the ongoing journey to smarter systems, with less dependency on human intervention. "If I have a fixed infrastructure to do an always-on, wide-area read, that could be a benefit for certain industries for certain challenges," he says, saving on the costs of labor required to operate handheld devices.

Core RFID technology is in a good place, Frew says, but the market wants increasing innovation at the business process layer. "Retailers and brand owners want RFID to impact as many ROI 'levers' as they can to get the best ROI," he explains. "This is being done in the software application layer in conjunction with process-change management within the enterprise."

Several experts cite the convergence or consolidation of RFID with other sensor and data-capture technologies as part of the IoT device trend. The "mixing and matching" of different IoT devices will be increasingly important for applications such as new store concepts, Cooduvalli says. "Stores will leverage beacons and RFID readers to provide greater insight during the shopping journey."

"Overhead infrastructure is becoming increasingly smart, integrating wireless, RFID, video and all sorts of other data-capture capabilities," Schaefer predicts. "The innovations that make these solutions successful will involve the ability to analyze all of the data that gets generated—in real time—to drive actionable business information. Software and algorithms will be key to driving increased value from the wealth of new data that will be generated moving forward. The integration of these technologies and the data they generate will be important to the eventual goal of driving an Internet of Things reality."

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