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 British 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 per cent of the total RFID market in 2007, to 26 per cent (or US$7 billion) 10 years from now, according to IDTechEx, based in the United Kingdom.

Fueling 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.

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