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Publication Date: 08/1/2007
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Active RFID On the Upswing
Cambridge, UK — Will active (battery powered) RFID overtake the more common passive variety? It represents a high growth segment of the total RFID market, according to "The IDTechEx report Active RFID and Sensor Networks 2007-2017."

The report, written by Raghu Das ( comprehensively analyses the technologies, players and markets with detailed 10-year forecasts provided, including tag numbers, unit prices and interrogator numbers and prices. Details of 75 active RFID implementations are given along with over 100 suppliers and full technology analysis — from printed batteries to WiFi RFID to UWB tags. IDTechEx has constructed 10-year forecasts usefully segmented by frequency, application, territory, etc., and illustrated by dozens of tables and figures. The active RFID market will grow to over 11 times its present size by 2017, so whether a user or supplier, it's important to keep up with this under-reported subject.

The term Active RFID incorporates many technologies including Real Time Locating Systems, Ubiquitous Sensor Networks and Active RFID with Zigbee, RuBee, Ultra Wide Band and WiFi. The new research report by IDTechEx studies this market and finds that it is growing faster than other RFID technology sectors.

Active RFID, where a battery drives the tag, is responsible for an increasing percentage of the money spent in the RFID market. It will rise from 12.7 percent of the total RFID market this year to 26.3 percent in 2017, meaning a huge $7.07 billion market. If we include the market for cell phone RFID modules (another form of active RFID), the market is an additional $0.44 billion in 2007 and $1.2 billion in 2017.

Factors Driving Growth
The primary factors creating this growth will be Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS), and ubiquitous RFID sensor systems (mainly disposable), including ones in the form of Smart Active Labels (SALs). Conventional active RFID is used where passive solutions are inadequate, and RFID modules for mobile phones will make up the rest of this expanding market.

The rapid growth of the active RFID market is being driven by such factors as:

  • Much stronger market demand for tracking, locating and monitoring people and things. This is driven by security, safety, cost and customer satisfaction, for example.
  • Reduction in cost and size of the tags and systems.
  • Development of Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN) where large numbers of active RFID tags with sensors are radio networked in buildings, forests, rivers, hospitals and many other locations.
  • Availability of open standards — notably ISO 18000-7, IEEE 802.15.4 and NFC.
  • Leveraging many popular forms of short range wireless communication, particularly WiFi, UWB and ZigBee and including mesh networks.
  • Use of mobile phones for purchasing, mass transit, etc.

Active RFID sales to 2007
To the beginning of 2007, 614 million active RFID tags have been sold with the vast majority used for car clickers (593 million). Like these, a large percentage of active RFID tags being sold in the future will replace nothing: they will perform new functions. The second biggest use for active RFID to date has been by the military, using 6.3 million active RFID tags so far.

In 2007, 63.9 percent of the money spent on active RFID will be on the system (reader, network, installation, software) as opposed to the tags. As the number of tags per application increases, this balance will shift, so that by 2017 the value of everything other than tags will be 57.3 percent. Companies involved know that this is not like the highest volume uses of passive RFID tags where disposable labels are usually involved and the label cost can be 50 percent of the total cost. Most active RFID (such as RTLS) is more of a systems business.

For more information, contact: IDTechEx, Inc., One Broadway, 14th floor, Cambridge MA 02142 305-572-7831 Web:

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