More than a decade ago, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology pioneer Kevin Ashton coined the term "Internet of Things." The idea was that every item, product, or "thing" would have a unique identifier just as every computer does on the Internet. RF tags, of course, would provide the means by which these things could be tracked and identified.
For logistics managers, the Internet of Things would be a game changer. Among other benefits, it would make it possible to track the flow of goods into and out of a warehouse at the item level. Some retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers are already experimenting with item-level tracking. Nonetheless, it appears that the ability to track everything is still several years away.
Why? A recent report from Frost & Sullivan ("Analysis of the Active RFID and Sensor Networks Market") offers some insight into the barriers to making the Internet of Things a reality. One of the top challenges, it notes, is getting more companies to buy the type of tags necessary to make this possible. (...)
As for why users are shying away from active tags, there are a couple of reasons. First, there's the lack of common industry standards. While passive tags use data standards developed by the EPCglobal consortium, there's no such system in place for active tags. At the moment, makers of active tags use different technology protocols, such as Wi-Fi, Rubee, Zigbee, ultra wide band, infrared, and ultrasound. All of those protocols require different standards, hindering widescale adoption of the technology. (...)
Although a standard would hasten the adoption of active tags, there's still another obstacle—cost. Bhattacharya says a passive basic tag goes for $2 to $5 per unit,while an active tag costs between $10 and $15. And that's the low end of the range. If those tags are embedded with sensors and support multiple technologies, the cost of an active tag can top $100 per unit.