Report: Real-time locating systems come of age

Real-time locating systems are growing rapidly and could be a major part of the radio frequency identification market within 10 years, according to a research report from IDTechEx Ltd., a research firm in Cambridge, England.

While only about 900 such locating systems are installed worldwide, the technology has become more portable and less expensive. The systems are expected to comprise a $2.7 billion global industry by 2016.

The locating systems use tiny devices, typically RFID tags, and geospatial software to track the location of assets from moment to moment. They are used in several areas, such as manufacturing, health care, delivery services and homeland security.

There are many situations calling for real-time locating systems, "particularly now that it has become affordable, and the mobile devices that are sensed have, in many cases, become small and convenient," IDTechEx said in its report.

About 40 companies produce locating systems, including Cisco Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp, Mitsubishi Corp. and Motorola Inc., IDTechEx said. The expanding market will represent about 40 percent of the RFID market in 10 years, the company said.

While locating systems use RFID tags, they are primarily a "systems" business, IDTechEx said. One indication of that is the forecast that services and software will represent $1.6 billion, or 60 percent, of the locating systems market in 2016, while hardware and tags together will total $1 billion, or 40 percent of the total.

In addition to tracking assets, the systems could be used for tracking people, such as in recovering a lost child at a mall. However, there are privacy concerns that may affect that kind of use, IDTechEx said.

Furthermore, lack of industry standards for the technologies may create incompatibilities with other systems, and may impede using the technology, the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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