Asia is becoming a hotbed of RFID use, and Alien Technology is jumping into the market. The RFID hardware and tag supplier is investing up to $10 million to form Alien Technology Asia, a new venture it will use to boost its Asian distribution, marketing, R&D and manufacturing capabilities.
"The advanced stage of the Korean RFID market coupled with the technology capability, leadership and vision demonstrated in adoption of RFID in Korea make the country an ideal location for the headquarters of Alien's business operations in Asia," says Robert Eulau, chief financial officer of Alien. "We look forward to further engagement with the leaders of the RFID industry in Korea to address the growing opportunities for RFID business across Asia."
Alien began offering its Alien RFID Academy training courses in the Korean market in January in SongDo Incheon City, Korea. The Alien RFID Academy has graduated more than 1,800 people from around the world, representing over 600 commercial and governmental organizations.
According to ABI Research, the South Korean market alone represents a significant opportunity for RFID, with the total South Korean RFID hardware spend expected to reach more than $100 million this year. Supply chain management-related applications should account for approximately 10 to 15 percent of that total, according to Michael Liard, research director for RFID & Contactless at ABI Research.
RFID tag and reader provider Impinj is also investing in the region, partnering with Korean hardware integrator LS Industrial Systems to deliver high-performance RFID solutions in Korea. Responding to significant demand from the Korean manufacturing sector for RFID-enabled logistics and distribution capability, LS Industrial Systems will build and distribute a comprehensive RFID solution incorporating Impinj's Speedway reader platform and Monza Gen 2 chips. The solution, scheduled to be commercially available this month, targets Korean product distributors, manufacturing companies and government entities requiring RFID technology to improve factory automation and supply chain efficiency.
"Our goal is to quickly become the premier provider of high-performance RFID solutions in Korea," says Ju Hwan Jung, director of the RFID business division at LS Industrial Systems.
Sales of RFID tags in Asia are likely to get a boost from several national governments, according to research firm Research & Markets. The governments of China, South Korea and Japan are aggressively promoting the technology throughout society by forming RFID information centers and hosting conferences and summits to help companies and the public better understand the latest developments in RFID technology and its applications. Some of those promotional groups include the RFID China Alliance, the South Korean Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN), and Hibiki, a consortium founded by the Japanese government to develop low-cost RFID tags.
China has also started to move ahead with the development of an RFID standard and is poised to become the largest market in the world for RFID tag applications, especially as more and more manufacturers recognize the efficiencies to be gained from attaching RFID tags to products at the point of manufacture.
Plastic pallet pooling startup Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) isn't even a year old yet, but it has already become a major RFID tag customer. Last month, the company placed an order for just under five million passive Gen 2 RFID tags to be used on its plastic pallets. Avery Dennison will supply about three million of the inlays, while the remainder will come from Alien Technology. The company is paying approximately 23 cents per tag.
iGPS is the only large-scale pallet supply service to put RFID tags on every pallet to track shipments in real time, which reduces shipping costs and allows companies to verify food and drug safety, as well as to address security issues. To assure 100 percent readability, the company places not one, but four RFID tags on each pallet—one in each corner.
The company currently has an inventory of just 100,000 pallets, but its manufacturing partner will start production of 200,000 pallets a month in March. iGPS CEO Bob Moore, who founded the company last March, hopes that production can be increased to 400,000 pallets per month, which would make iGPS one of the largest users of RFID tags, consuming at least 1.6 million tags per month.