Home > Articles > Security > Network Security

Emerging Trends in RFID

This chapter takes stock of where RFID technology stands today, discusses the recent innovations around RFID, and examines key factors that will influence its evolution.
This chapter is from the book
  • Technological Advancements
    • New and Improved Tags
    • Architecture for the New Network
    • Falling RFID Tag Price
  • Business Process Innovations
    • Item-Level Tagging
    • Third-Party Logistics Management
    • Real-Time Inventory Management
    • Business Intelligence
    • IT Outsourcing
    • Real-Time Data Sharing for Total Supply Chain Integration
  • Evolving Standards and Legislation
    • Industry Standards
    • Government Regulations and Mandates
    • Privacy Related Regulations
  • Consumer Application Innovations
  • Summary

Five Questions This Chapter Will Answer

  • What kind of advances in RFID tag design are expected?

  • Are there any emerging computer hardware or software advancements that will help the deployment of RFID applications?

  • Is item-level tagging a hype or a reality?

  • What are the important catalysts for the widespread adoption of RFID?

  • What does subcutaneous tagging have to do with RFID adoption in the enterprise?

The etymology of the word trend denotes both movement in a general direction as well as roundabout twists and turns. Early potters could not possibly have predicted the various turns the wheel would take during the 8,500 years after it was first invented. Similarly, it is unlikely that Michael Faraday could have imagined any of today's RFID applications when he discovered electromagnetic induction.

Technology trends, in particular, are not only shaped by technological invention and advancements but by economic, social, and political factors. These add a new dimension of complexity to predicting the ultimate disposition and acceptance of trends.

Keeping all these complexities in mind, we have identified the top emerging trends associated with RFID that are expected to drive its ubiquitous adoption. These trends fall into the following categories: Technological Advancements, Business Process Innovations, Evolving Standards and Legislation, and Consumer Application Innovations.

In this chapter, we use these categories as anchor to do the following:

  • Take stock of where RFID technology stands today

  • Discuss the recent innovations around RFID

  • Examine key factors that will influence its evolution

Technological Advancements

Technological advancements are the high-octane fuel that powers the continued acceptance and growth of new technologies. These advancements can provide the following advantages:

  • Make existing applications easier to use

  • Offer more functionality

  • Drive deployment costs down

Technological advancements open the door for new applications that were not imaginable or possible before. In the following section, we explore some of the more significant technological advancements that are under development today.

New and Improved Tags

Innovation around the design and manufacture of RFID tags is an ongoing process. Some of the most promising new designs are covered in the following sections.

Alternative Tag Designs

Many factors, including physical and environmental, affect the readable range and accuracy of tags. Some examples are detection near metal or liquid and extreme weather conditions such as low temperature or high humidity. Besides simply improving on existing technology to overcome these limitations, alternative physics are being employed that can sidestep or leapfrog these limitations.

The majority of the work in the alternative physics area includes developments around chipless tags, introduced in Chapter 3, "Components of RFID Systems." Chipless tags promise to improve upon the physical limitations of radio frequency detection while potentially offering reduced costs due to the absence of integrated circuitry. Chipless tags can be more easily applied near metal and liquid or embedded in items like paper, thereby offering greater flexibility and functionality with their use. One chipless tag technology showing promise in supply chain applications uses Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) technology. SAW technology involves the propagation of radio frequency acoustic waves on the surface of polished crystals. Other promising chipless technologies that have the potential to revolutionize RFID applications use nanotechnology, genomics, or even chemistry to achieve chipless tagging and unique identification of objects such as paper currency and product labels. You can find vendors that develop and supply chipless tag technologies at this book's companion Web site, http://www.rfidfieldguide.com.

When it comes to major advancements in IC-based tag design, Smart Active Label (SAL) technology is gaining momentum in the market. SAL offers enhanced range and accuracy attributes while being less vulnerable to liquid or metal. A SAL tag is essentially a semi-active smart label with its power source in the form of a thin, flexible battery. Using SAL tags, tagging and detecting cans of soda and bottles containing liquid can become more practical and economical.

Tag Packaging

Tag packaging plays a significant role in the applicability and practicality of specific uses of RFID. Expect to see tag and antenna packaging designs that will continue to push the envelope of creativity and ingenuity, much as injectable and ingestible tags have done in the past. Chipless tags based on nanotechnology will certainly be at the forefront of such developments.

Another entirely different approach to tag packaging that is very promising is related to printed electronics. This involves the process of "printing" antennae, transistors, or even integrated circuits using conductive ink and standard printing processes. The potential to inexpensively print a tag onto a box or the packaging of an item unlocks a new set of possibilities for the widespread application of RFID in everyday items. Already, several companies (identified in the vendor guide at this book's companion Web site, http://www.rfidfieldguide.com) have designed smart label antennae that use conductive ink instead of copper.

Sensory Tags

Tags whose packaging integrates them with sensors can monitor, record, and even react to all sorts of environmental conditions. Known as sensory tags, these tag types promote an entirely new set of applications. The major advancements here will be around the coupling or combining of RFID tag technology with sensor technology in very small form factors. Smart Dust is one such combination that offers the functionality of tiny environmental sensors known as MicroElectroMechanical Sensors (MEMS) with active RFID tag-like capabilities. Each such device is expected to be one cubic millimeter in size. The potential applications of this technology span a wide area, from monitoring battlefield activities in a military operation to tracking the facial movements of the disabled to control their wheelchairs.

Architecture for the New Network

RFID systems generate mountains of new data that need to be synchronized, filtered, analyzed, managed, and acted upon, often in real-time or near real-time. Each tag is essentially a single computing device, albeit a very simple one, that acts as one node in a network of, eventually, billions or even trillions of such devices. This new network is dramatically different and in many ways more complex than even the Internet, the most complex network ever known. This fact is due primarily to the number of nodes that could exist in the expanded model of a worldwide RFID network, which will be several orders of magnitude larger than the number of nodes on the Internet. This simply means that traditional computing architectures and infrastructures will not be adequate to handle the dramatically higher data volumes expected in a network of RFID tags. Here, we discuss two different approaches under development that address the requirements of this new network from both hardware and software perspectives.

Where will all this RFID data come from?

Consider the scenario where a major retail chain will be tagging all its goods in all its stores, at the single item level. The number of tagged items in this scenario can easily reach 10 billion or more. This means that the data identifying the 10 billion items amounts to 120 gigabytes (10 billion x 12 bytes per tag). If these items were read once every 5 minutes somewhere in the supply chain, they would generate nearly 15 terabytes of tracking data every day (120 gigabytes x 12 times per hour x 10 hours per day). That's 15 terabytes of additional data generated by one retail chain every day. Using this formula, 10 major retailers tagging and tracking every item will generate 150 terabytes of data. This is bigger than the estimated 136 terabytes of data from 17 million books in the U.S. Library of Congress1. Obviously, a great majority of this RFID data is duplicate and will likely be discarded. However, all the data needs to be processed, examined, and acted upon, even if such action means simply ignoring much of it.

We use item-level tagging (a more distant scenario) to demonstrate the eventual avalanche of RFID data. However, you can apply a similar formula to calculate the amount of data for a more immediate scenario: case- and pallet-level tagging. Although the volume of data in this case is an order of magnitude smaller, it still represents several orders of magnitude more data than a pre-RFID scenario.

Microprocessor Design

Several computer giants are revising their microprocessor development roadmaps in favor of a new microprocessor architecture called Chip Multi-Threading (CMT). One of the pioneers in this area is Sun Microsystems, which has already introduced the first design of this new architecture. This is just in time for the expected volume spike in RFID data as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and major retailers around the world go into full deployment mode with their mandates. Simply put, CMT architecture bucks the trend of traditional microprocessor design and architecture that primarily seeks to perform single tasks faster and faster. Instead, CMT is an architecture that allows the efficient execution of many tasks simultaneously. This is parallel computing taken all the way to the core of the microprocessor.

Peer-to-Peer Computing

Although the data generated by RFID systems can easily reach trillions of bytes that need to be processed almost instantaneously, much of the data is disbursed across one or more enterprises, and often across the globe. This suggests that local processing of data, by RFID readers, before passing it along to a centralized computer can dramatically reduce the burden placed on centralized computing resources. This is an excellent scenario in which to apply Peer-to-Peer (P2P) programming techniques to perform RFID-related data processing locally. P2P technology is a type of distributed computing technique that decentralizes computing tasks across several less powerful cooperating computers (peers) within a network.

Expect RFID readers to become increasingly more "intelligent." Readers will perform many of the data processing, analysis, and management tasks within a local network of cooperating tags and readers. They will accomplish what today is mostly done by centralized computers.

Falling RFID Tag Price

With RFID technology, cost of components, especially cost of individual tags, will play a major role in determining its ultimate success and ubiquity. From an economic perspective, the cost of tags is expected to continue to drop as the volume production goes up to meet demand. However, both alternative chipless tag designs and advances in fabrication and manufacturing of integrated circuits (IC) are expected to drive the cost of tags dramatically lower. The 5 cents tag, as it has been called, has been widely viewed as the inflection point where wide adoption of RFID will quickly occur. To be clear, the supply and demand equation alone is unlikely to drive the price of IC-based tags down to the 5 cents mark. Today, tag prices barely dip below 25 cents, even in high volumes. Therefore, alternative tag designs and more efficient tag manufacturing are likely to be important factors in driving the cost of tags down by another factor of five.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020