The tags have gotten smaller over the years, says Hekmatyar, as battery power has evolved and batteries have become smaller. “But the biggest factor has been acceptance. A few years ago, not too many people were considering asset tracking, whereas nowadays, we’re getting constant interest in that particular area.”
Abji says that performance is another issue. His company has focused on making tags work better among metal objects. “We wanted the tags to be such that they could be placed on heavy-metal objects without degrading the performance, also have a fast transaction of the tag, between the tag and the system. We can determine theoretically, for example, a thousand tags per second,” he says, “whereas old technology would potentially miss one or two because the transaction rate is very slow. And you can imagine that you may put tags on hundreds of items that are put on a skid and go through a warehouse door, for example. So it’s very necessary for us to have those [faster] types of transaction speeds,” Abji says.
Another trend in this arena is toward standardization, much like in other areas of security. Abji says his company has been involved in the development of a standard for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) which was released last year. This alleviates the concerns some companies might have when investing in proprietary technology. Such systems would become useless if the manufacturer went out of business.
As a result of these improvements and other factors, such as the need for companies to comply with regulations like those stemming from Sarbanes-Oxley, RFID is being used more in places like data centers, says Jenkins. The RFID in data centers industry is expected to grow to nearly $1 billion by 2017, according to the site RFID 24-7.
In retail, by contrast, RFID has fallen short of initial expectations, but it still holds promise. Fifteen years ago, Walmart wanted all of its manufacturers to start using RFID tags to track merchandise, but even a company with that much clout couldn’t make it happen back then, notes Read Hayes, research scientist, Crime Prevention Research Team, at the University of Florida and director of the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC). And JCPenney is reportedly reversing its decision to try a switch to RFID that has been blamed for increased shrinkage, though the details on that are unknown at this point.