The promise of RFID is being realised. Industries in nearly every vertical are benefiting from the evolution of RFID

It’s an exciting time for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Over the last few years, RFID has become easier to design, integrate and deploy in nearly every industry. The costs of RFID has gone down, whilst its reliability has increased, resulting in ROI being realised significantly quicker.

The RFID industry—including tags, readers, software and services —reached $11.6 billion in 2019, and is expected to exceed $15 billion in 2024, according to IDTechEx[1].

Why the growth? RFID solutions used to be comprised of piecemeal hardware and software requiring multiple third-party providers. Today, RFID is more comprehensive and cohesive as a solution, and optimised to be integrated into different infrastructures.

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The quick RFID rundown

RFID uses radio frequency waves to transfer data wirelessly. Depending on the business needs, RFID solutions can include handheld, fixed readers, scanners, antennas, printers and middleware.

What sets RFID apart is its unique ability to locate, authenticate and track tagged items quickly and more efficiently than other systems. With RFID, users can scan hundreds of tagged items simultaneously by waving a handheld reader, or automatically with a fixed reader or passive antenna that does not require manual labour. More advanced than barcode solutions, RFID tags can be read without a line of sight, and their read ranges can reach more than 65 feet or 20 meters.

RFID can reduce the time of a routine task (e.g. inventory counts) from hours to minutes. Imagine what businesses can do with all those saved hours.

RFID also collects a wealth of data at a granular level (asset locations and movement, workflow throughput and many other critical operational components) and companies are using that data to transform how they do business, drive new efficiencies and save significant costs.

Why RFID now?

Nearly every industry—from healthcare and retail to manufacturing, transportation and logistics—is being challenged to connect technologies with assets and workers into a consistent, fully-scaled operational ecosystem. Only intelligent-edge technologies like RFID can do that.

Studies report that 85% of retailers plan to implement case or pallet-level RFID, and 68% plan on item-level RFID[2]. Nearly 50% of manufacturers plan to implement RFID during the next five years[3]. The global market for RFID in healthcare market reached $1.9M in 2019, and is expected to rise to $7.7M by end of 2026[4].

RFID achieves its highest potential when it is tailored to each environment. This can deter some customers if they don’t look at how the ROI can recoup upfront costs. For example, the Bonita Springs Fire Control & Rescue District in Bonita Springs, FL used RFID to track thousands of its assets in supply rooms, firehouses, fire engines, rescue units and boats. Within one year, it achieved 100% ROI, reduced costs by 50% for disposables and medications, and cut time spent on inventorying assets by 95%[5].

Applications and benefits of RFID

Because RFID is such an adaptable technology, the use case applications are nearly limitless for assets or people that need to be located, identified and tracked. The resulting data can be used for a wide-range of operational improvements.

Example use cases include:

  • Track and trace in supply chains
  • Real-time asset tracking for retail, medical facilities and warehouses
  • Pharmacy management
  • Restricted access control
  • Event ticketing and passes
  • Consumer kiosks

For instance, the civil engineering and surveying firm DRMP recently implemented RFID to boost the visibility, security and recoverability of its high-value assets in the field. As RFID created centralised visibility, DRMP was able to enhance its auditing processes, identify record inaccuracies, and open up new opportunities to automate and improve its asset management[6].

Kimbark Laundry & Dry Cleaning used RFID to nearly double its weekly throughput, while reducing reimbursement costs for lost goods and increasing revenue from high-value commercial customers[7].

Benefits of RFID include:

  • Reduced time and increased accuracy of inventory counts
  • Automated processes to reduce manual hours
  • Augmented workers to free their time for higher value tasks
  • Data-insights to reveal new opportunities and act on them in real-time

How is RFID designed and deployed right?

RFID is not for every operation. The bottom line depends on whether or not the ROI makes sense. The ROI is impacted by several factors, including the operational environment and workflows, what the RFID solution is intended to achieve, and the future vision for the business.

RFID is done right when the solution provider utilises the best hardware and supplies, integrates the solution with the right software and architecture for interoperability, and makes the data accessible and actionable. It’s all doable because RFID has evolved to become a high-performing and practical solution to reveal opportunities hidden in plain sight, allowing companies to act on those opportunities in real-time to transform their businesses for a competitive edge.

Want to know more? Check out the Zebra RFID Portfolio Brochure.

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[1] “RFID Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2019-2029”, IDTechEx Research, 2019.

[2] “2020 Shopper Study, Vol. 2”, Zebra Technologies, 2019.

[3] “2017 Manufacturing Vision Study”, Zebra Technologies, 2017.

[4] “RFID in Healthcare Market”, Facts and Factors, 2020.

[5] “Bonita Springs Firefighters Streamline Asset Management with RFID Solution”, Zebra Technologies, 2020.

[6] “Enhances Asset Management with RFID Technology”, Zebra Technologies, 2020.

[7] “Kimbark Laundry & Dry-Cleaning Employs Using Modern RFID-Based Workflows”, Zebra Technologies, 2020.

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