Radiofrequency identification (RFID) is a system based on wireless technology which utilizes radio waves for collecting data from a tag attached to an object, for various purposes like automatic identification and tracking of objects. RFID system comprises of three major components – tags, readers and middleware. RFID tags and readers are further subdivided into active and passive. The active RFID devices are powered by inbuilt power source while passive RFID devices derive their power from the electromagnetic waves emitted by the readers. RFID printers and cabinets have expanded the scope of application of RFID in healthcare.
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Major application areas of RFID technology include retail industry, supply chain and logistics, and government. Healthcare, however, accounts for a smaller share of the overall RFID market share. Currently RFID applications in healthcare include equipment tracking, people identification and tracking, medical report and blood transfer monitoring, medicine tracking, and supply chain. Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and distribution channels are the main customers for RFID technology. Barcode technology has been a major restraint for development of RFID market. Although RFID technology has advantages of automation and accuracy, its acceptance is impeded because of the expenditure as compared with barcode technology. This factor is strong particularly in emerging countries, wherein implementation costs are a substantial deterrent for hospitals. Cost effective and easy implementation and operation have made barcode popular across the globe.
Technological advances have made the RFID market more dynamic, shrinking the product life cycle. Miniaturized tags have made asset tracking convenient, especially in hospitals where medical devices can be continuously tracked or located. RFID tags play a pivotal role in acceptance of this technology and as per unit price reduces, the overall market for RFID modules is expected to grow rapidly. North America stands out as a prominent leader in the healthcare application of RFID. Large number of tier-1 and tier-2 hospitals, increasing scrutiny due to medical device theft, incidences of drug counterfeiting and need for more efficient supply chain management are other reasons driving the market growth. Impact of economic crises of 2008 has greatly impacted the growth of RFID market in the European countries. Budget cuts on healthcare sector have reduced the overall hospital expenditure. Anticipating economic recovery in the near future, the market is expected to gain momentum in the forecast period. China has emerged as the home for low cost RFID component OEM service providers. With consistent rise in RFID component suppliers in China, suppliers in Europe and North America are facing tough competition in the market. China is one of the largest suppliers of UHF and HF tags. Key players in the market include Alien Technology, Applied Wireless Identifications Group, CAEN RFID, GAO RFID, Inc., Impinj, Intermec, Invengo, Motorola Solutions (now Zebra Technologies), Sato Holdings and STiD.
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