Prediction: Data and Apps Rule RFID For The Next 10 Years

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:14 AM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, RFID Predictions, RFID Data, Big Data

Big Data“If history is any indication, we should assume that any technology that is going to have a significant impact over the next 10 years is already 10 years old!”

-- Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and author of Sketching User Experiences

It amazes me each year. It seems like I blink and all of a sudden I see the torrent of predictions coming at me from all directions. Where did the year go?

Indeed, it was another year of fast-paced change in the RFID market. The end of the year is always a good time to take a step back and consider what the next year will hold. I personally find it fun to make predictions.  Except, instead of predicting the next year, I’m going to channel Bill Buxton and his quote referenced above and issue somewhat of a challenge for the next 10 years.

It’s Time to Reshape the Way We Think About RFID

During the last 10 years (and even going back 40 years since the first passive radio transponder with memory was patented in 1970), RFID hardware and software providers have continued to innovate and collaborate at a notable clip.  RFID readers have evolved to include a wide variety of purpose-built form factors, and embedded RFID modules are being used to enable many stationary and mobile devices with the auto-identification technology. 

In fact, the technology itself has matured to a point where it is no longer a barrier to entry for most markets and applications.  What’s more, businesses across all industries have a great number of well documented end user case studies and best practices to help them with their ROI analysis. 

So now what?

End customer organizations of all sizes have learned where and when it makes the most sense to apply RFID to their business processes.  RFID vendors and solution providers have survived the technology maturation process.  Now it’s time to think beyond RFID of the past 10 years and toward the next wave of innovation. 

Big Data, Meet RFID

We should think beyond the underlying technology – and toward the value of RFID data, emerging methods of data access and analysis, and about the many innovative enterprise and consumer applications that can be enabled with this data.

We should think beyond one-size-fits-all readers – and toward the wide variety of fixed-position and embedded RFID reader form factors that can support a great number of unbelievably diverse applications.

We should think beyond siloed deployments of RFID – and toward the hardware, software and data becoming an integrated element of the enterprise.

We should think beyond the singular technology of RFID – and toward the combination of RFID and other technologies like GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

As we’ve experienced with many other data-driven solutions, this progression will lead to RFID as a data platform – with RFID modules and extensible software interfaces allowing for the integration of RFID with other technologies. Even more compelling is when these devices will be able to learn about our environment, provide contextual adaptation if necessary, and, connect those objects to the broader Internet and business systems. 

Thought about in this way, RFID becomes much more valuable in the context of “big data” and how it is “the next frontier of innovation”, as McKinsey states earlier this year in its report Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. In fact, it cites the Internet of Things as a major contributing factor to the explosion of data.

Consistent with Bill Buxton’s view, big data is not new. If you look at the amount of information Google deals with as an example, it’s been around for at least 10 years. But as more objects get connected to the network, the idea of “big” data as we’ve known it so far will seem quaint (a view that McKinsey shares).

The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.

Along with the torrent of data RFID platforms will produce come challenges in dealing with the data; first and foremost the need to think at a business process level about how this data can be used to create more organizational value in the form of increased revenue, cost savings and profits. 

So, along with the challenge to think about RFID from a data vs. technology perspective comes the need for the industry to provide more end-to-end-solutions.  The market needs to move fast because companies already are thinking at this level, in particular in the in-transit, retail and healthcare markets - which we’ll examine in future posts. 

In the meantime, what do think?  What are the challenges you see ahead for the industry? I’d love to discuss in the comments and in future posts.

Happy Birthday ThingMagic!

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 @ 11:31 AM

Tags: RFID, Internet of Things, RFID Predictions

10th Anniversary Celebrates Key Milestones and Innovative Applications, and Offers Predictions for the Future

10The company has come a long way in 10 years, since it was founded in a garage in Somerville, MA.  Five MIT alumni had a strong belief in the “Internet of Things,” and a vision to add magic to everyday objects. That magic has materialized into experiences we only dreamed of at the time; like a cancer patient’s favorite music playing when he walks through the treatment room doors, or tracking tools in the back of a pickup truck, or retailers getting a window into what the hot items will be so they can make smarter supply chain decisions.

Over the course of 10 years, ThingMagic’s product innovation and market leadership has been the result of unwavering dedication to its original vision. The company’s progress is characterized by success stories like Ford, Florida State Attorney’s Office, Greenville Hospital, Zebra and the Disney Family Cancer Center and many others.

One can deduce that it is innovative, real-life applications that once stemmed from futuristic ideas that helped drive market growth for RFID. ABI Research last week forecasted that the value of the overall RFID market will pass the $6 billion mark next year. That means more ideas and more creative uses of RFID in our everyday lives in the years to come.

But ThingMagic isn’t kicking back to celebrate a strong market and 10 years of hard work and achievement. What else would you expect from a company that was founded on creativity, risk and dedication? A party, perhaps! But you can also bet that the leaders at ThingMagic have already been thinking about the next era in RFID and what those futuristic products and solutions will look like. And I bet they won’t be ideas for very long. 

In the spirit of celebrating significant RFID milestones on its birthday, ThingMagic asked industry leaders to share their predictions for what to expect in the next 10 years in RFID. These predictions were announced today in a ThingMagic press release and include these insightful viewpoints from ThingMagic’s founders:

“Passive sensing (RFIDS) and computation (CRFID) will make big leaps forward in the next decade. Building on platforms like the WISP, we can expect to see a proliferation of purpose-built systems where passive sensing and computation are integral to the operation of the system.”

-- Ravi Pappu, Co-Founder and VP, Advanced Development, ThingMagic

“Our interactions with the Internet are beginning to change how we see the physical world and our expectations of how it should respond to us. As the ways in which we share, consume and catalog information in the virtual world continue to grow and change over the next decade, we will start to see how malleable the physical world can become in response to these interaction metaphors to which we have now grown accustomed. RFID, ubiquitous sensor/display technologies and the computing engines behind the scenes will be crucial to these new means of interaction in the physical world.”

-- Yael Maguire, Co-Founder and CTO, ThingMagic

"When we started ThingMagic 10 years ago, common sense suggested that it would take a long time for UHF RFID to be adopted. After all, it took 25 years for the barcode to become widely used! Young and inexperienced as we were we thought we could do it much faster....  just to get surprised by the burst of the RFID mini bubble 5 years later. Today, I do believe that we have a real shot at beating the barcode adoption time by a factor of two. Given the recent and significant uptick in demand for readers I predict that in a couple of years there will be tags and readers all around us and that people will not be able to imagine what life was like without this technology."

-- Bernd Schoner, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, ThingMagic

What are your predictions for the RFID market?  Share your thoughts below and we’ll compile them for a future ThingMagic blog post about the future of RFID.

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