RFID market to reach $5.56 billion by end of 2009

Published 22 May 2009

In 2008, the average price per RFID tag was $1.13; the total value of tags being sold in 2008 was $2.23 billion; this figure will increase to $5.56 billion in 2009

IDTechEx’s newly released report, RFID Forecasts, Players & Opportunities 2009-2019, finds that the value of the entire 2009 RFID market will be $5.56 billion, up from $5.25 billion in 2008. This includes tags, readers, and software/services for RFID cards, labels, fobs, and all other form factors. The majority of this spend is on RFID cards and their associated services — totaling $2.99 billion. The market for RFID is growing and a large amount of this value is due to government-led RFID schemes, such as those for transportation, national ID (contactless cards and passports), military, and animal tagging.

  • The tagging of apparel by companies such as Marks & Spencer and American Apparel is now in roll out phase with 200 million RFID labels being used for apparel (including laundry) globally in 2009. The tagging of animals (such as pigs and sheep) is growing strongly as it becomes a legal requirement in many more territories, with 105 million tags being used for this sector in 2009. This is happening in regions such as China and Australasia. 350 million RFID tickets will be sold in 2009 for transit schemes in cities around the World.
  • The tagging of pallets and cases remains to be a failure, with only 225 million passive UHF tags used for this application in 2009 — a far cry from the 35 billion tags that one consumer goods company alone predicted that it would be buying in 2009, when they presented at an event in 2003. The main reasons for this have been technical failures (poor read rates with high moisture content and metal products), lack of infrastructure and lack of mutuality of benefit between retailers and the rest of the supply chain. Work is still
  • preserving however.

In total, 2.35 billion tags will be sold in 2009 versus 1.97 billion in 2008; 1.74 billion in 2006 and 1.02 billion in 2005.

The forecasts have taken into account the global economic slow down. Looking at the range of applications, the biggest projects, which tend to be government led and are usually profitable for suppliers involved, are unlikely to reverse. For example, governments will not stop tagging passports or cattle to save money. More and more cities around the World are migrating to using RFID cards and eventually RFID tickets and RFID enabled cellphones for transit. The US Military recently awarded an order involving RFID approaching half a billion dollars. Governments do not need a fast return on investment (ROI). They seek error prevention, improved customer service and efficiency and greater security.

Industry, however, usually seeks rapid ROI. RFID is being applied where it can demonstrate a fairly rapid return on investment — such as apparel tracking, manufacturing, asset tracking, book tagging, etc. Those intending to supply the highest volumes of tags for open markets have had to diversify into many closed loop applications. With some companies having limited funds at this time, some RFID projects will be delayed, but some companies will use this to their advantage and adopt RFID where the paybacks are compelling for competitive advantage and to increase sales. It is still very rare, however, for any one customer to buy more than 5 million RFID labels in any one implementation.

By value, IDTechEx find that $2.23 billion was spent on tags alone in 2008, an average of price of $1.13 per tag. With the launch of printed RFID later this year for transit ticketing and other applications, and the increase use of RFID labels rather than cards, that average will fall to $0.22 in 2014.

IDTechEx has seen increasing RFID manufacture capacity being installed in East Asia over the last twelve months. In particular, after delivery of almost 1 billion RFID cards at HF, China now has a large HF tag manufacture capacity. Many companies in the West have formed alliances or joint ventures with companies in the East.

The leading frequency in 2008 remained HF (13.56MHz). In fact, HF RFID working at the ISO14443 specification was responsible for more than five times the expenditure on RFID to any other specification, with large new applications added such as passports and RFID enabled phones. Add supply chain, library and secure access RFID to the ISO15693 specification at HF and we continued huge use of this frequency. The market for 18000-6 passive UHF tags resulted in a market size of $145 million for the tags alone.