Active RFID market 'surging'

The use of battery-powered wireless products in tagging and tracking applications is rising sharply, according to new data from a consulting firm.

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The use of battery-powered wireless products in tagging and tracking applications is rising sharply, according to new data from a consulting firm.

"Active RFID" uses almost any wireless technology – from short-range 802.15.4 sensor radios to Wi-Fi and even cellular – in tags that have a battery or other power source. The tags attach to equipment, vehicles and even livestock, and can be used for asset management and location tracking. By contrast, passive RFID tags rely on the energy from a wireless scan by a tag reader, usually over a just a few feet away.

The surge in interest in active RFID will boost it from about 13% of the total RFID market in 2007, to 26% (or £3.5bn) 10 years from now, according to IDTechEx.

Fuelling the segment's growth is demand for real-time location systems (RTLS) for tracking, finding and monitoring things and people. These systems are being used in such diverse applications as antiterrorism and monitoring the health of the elderly.

One especially active RTLS market is healthcare, where these systems locate a wide range of hospital equipment and help monitor patients.

Also seeing growing demand are what the consultancy calls "ubiquitous sensor systems," which marry active radio tags with a host of sensors for real-time monitoring and management of such things as the condition of heating and cooling systems, electricity use, harvested crops, and patient movement in hospital surgery suites.

Products and systems are becoming ever more capable. IAnywhere Solutions recently unveiled a new version of its RFID sensor-management software that has additional location-tracking features and supports more sensor technologies. Its new Wi-Fi-based radio tag is markedly thinner than its existing tags and has a built-in motion sensor and two programmable buttons for sending simple acknowledgements or alerts. AeroScout's latest Wi-Fi-based radio tag is markedly thinner than previous models, and packs a built-in motion sensor and two programmable buttons for sending simple acknowledgements or alerts.

And venture capitalists are pouring money into active RFID, according to IDTechEx. The consultancy found that of 27 recent fund-raisings by RFID companies, 37% went to companies focused on active RFID.

Established companies are making their own moves: Savi was acquired for an undisclosed amount in June 2006 by Lockheed Martin.

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