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Market Review

Jonathan Borrill, Director of Marketing, Anritsu

“2012 provided a mixed set of challenges for the Test and Measurement industry. Many customers (large and small) were considering delays to investments due to market uncertainties in Europe, and concern that their eventual end customers and markets would be strong enough to support the current business. Many government austerity packages had reduced spending in traditional areas such as Defence and construction, but equally there were promising new projects in communication and “connectivity” that may stimulate the industry. Balanced against this was the continued growth of the “Smartphone” business and personal information devices (e.g. tablet and ultrabook devices), and the corresponding investments in wireless networks to support the extra data capacity. This saw major investments in the areas of WiFi networks, “small cells” for home use and coverage blackspots, and then the deployment of LTE across many European markets to provide extra data bandwidth and higher speed/more efficient use of the radio spectrum. The current outlook for 2013 is for a similar trend. There is no quick reversal of the European economic situation expected, but the demand for personal communications and connectivity to the

RFID - Has 2012 been the year of realisation?

According to Matthew Parker, Development Manager at Zebra Technologies, 2012 has been a game- changing year for RFID, a year where its uses and benefits have been fully recognised across a number of vertical sectors. For over a decade it has been described as the ‘next big thing’, but has not lived up to these expectations, partly due to its capabilities being wrongly communicated to the industry. This year has been the tipping point. “RFID’s importance in the retail and

apparel sector has grown significantly. While it is by no means new to the sector, having been used for the last two decades in security tagging, it is now enhancing the customer experience. Selected clothes in the new flagship London Burberry store are fitted with RFID tags which means as shoppers wearing such garments approach so called “magic mirrors”, the mirror transforms into a screen which shows a film of how the garment was made and what it looked like on the catwalk. “The evolving use of RFID is not isolated to the retail sector, with its presence in the supply chain becoming a necessity for

organisations who wish to track their inventory from manufacturer to retailer. In 2012 visibility within the supply chain is fundamental and active RFID tags offer exactly this, allowing organisations to track from their desk where their shipments are. If you can see more, you can do more. Increasing visibility allows orders to

18 December 2012/January 2013

Mervyn Kelly, EMEA Marketing Director, Ciena

the technology. However, in order for the full benefits to take effect, it is vital that a competitive and world class 4G marketplace is established as quickly as possible.

internet will continue to grow. This will drive a continued steady investment into LTE networks and backhaul technologies to increase capacity and decrease costs. WiFi and home access points will also become more important to network operators, as will the expansion into Machine to Machine (M2M) applications. The main investments for Test & Measurement equipment are expected to be in the areas of expanding backhaul capacity, use of new wireless technologies (such as LTE-Advanced) and the expansion and optimisation of current LTE networks. The “general industry” segment is expected to continue to be challenging, with investments selected carefully to be aligned to certain growth segments/projects or associated with business/economic stimulus projects.”

be increased and shipping accuracy to be improved, allowing instantaneous reactions to potential issues with delivery. It can also reduce costs through automation, minimising human errors and ensure wasted stock is kept to a minimum. “As RFID uses radio waves to transmit data instead of optical scans of labels, it does not require the tag nor the label to be physically in view for the information to be readable. Early adopters of RFID have witnessed the significant improvements in day- to-day business operations, which

EE has gone on record to say that as well as giving customers faster internet, 4G would also be of big benefit to businesses. A survey commissioned by the company revealed that 74 percent of UK businesses intend to adopt 4G within 12 months. Recent research in line with these statistics points to a direct link between economic growth and a best in class national broadband offering, with some figures indicating that for every 10 per cent of broadband penetration, a nation’s GDP rises by one per cent[i]. Therefore, the speed at which multiple 4G/LTE offerings come to the UK will be paramount to ensuring the UK can continue to compete economically. According to the GSMA, the UK

“The launch of the UK’s first commercial LTE network by the country’s largest operator, EE, heralds a new era for mobile phone usage in the country. Not only does the roll-out mean that UK consumers can receive speeds several times faster than the current average, but EE’s service also puts Britain into the same league as the 40 other countries that have already adopted

but allies which when working tandem, increase visibility of inventory significantly.

“In the past, one of the largest barriers to RFID adoption has been the significant media cost. However, advancements in printing technology have brought the prices of RFID media down by up to ten per cent in recent years and the technology is now well within the reach of the average SME. The latest printing technologies can detect the RFID inlay position within the label and automatically configure the printer/encoder without having to manually calibrate for the inlay, which ensures tag accuracy and saves significant amounts of time and money.

“The business case is clear, but what is the consumer benefit? “We hear more and more that

become apparent almost immediately. Industry sectors including automotive and defence are now enjoying the increased visibility and tracking abilities that RFID is able to achieve in providing real time location monitoring of each asset as it goes through the manufacturing process. “RFID is being miscommunicated, which has been to its detriment for many years, but what exactly does this mean? Well, the error in communication lies with its association with the barcode, as it has been believed that RFID’s emergence would lead to the death of the barcode. However as we are seeing, the two technologies are not enemies

Components in Electronics

increased visibility and serialisation/tracking within the supply chain is fundamental in moving forward. Customers are demanding more in terms of item location monitoring and tracking as well as a more dynamic and flexible flow of goods and materials throughout the process chain. In addition, niche industries such as pharmaceuticals and hi-tech are under closer scrutiny due to the increasing emergence of counterfeit goods and as such keeping a near constant eye on item level goods as they work through the supply chain is of increasing importance. “RFID can help increase this level of visibility and tracking, particularly in industries with very high volume and value of inbound materials (such as automotive parts supply) as manual interventions in the form of item level

currently has 90 per cent mobile subscriber penetration. In this crowded competitive environment it is critical for other operators rolling out 4G services early next year, to have an effective mobile backhaul traffic management system in place to enable them to deliver new LTE services as quickly as possible. A high performance, high bandwidth mobile backhaul solution will eliminate bandwidth restrictions and reduce the potential for data bottlenecks, enabling operators to quickly scale the backhaul from the sub-100Mb/s speeds

or pallet level scanning is reduced. “In high value manufacturing execution such as plant and machinery or automotive, active RFID technologies can be used to great effect to provide real time location monitoring of each asset as it works through the manufacturing process. “Prices for RFID have dropped considerably as compared to 3 to 4 years ago due to advancements in printing technology. However, RFID is still perceived to be more expensive simply because of the additional "components" added to the label. In fact, printers that can print RFID labels are now priced well within the reach of an average SME. These printers, however, are not limited to either bar codes or RFID, but can offer dual printer abilities that enable you to print everything from simple bar code labels to full RFID tags. “RFID’s use and presence will continue grow strongly. ABI Research predicts that the market for RFID transponders, readers, software, and services will generate $44 billion from 2012 to the end of 2017. “Over the next two years the

healthcare sector’s use of RFID technology could mean it becomes a lifesaver. If all equipment within hospitals begins to carry active RFID tags, it will mean in an emergency staff will know exactly where lifesaving equipment is, which could be the difference between life and death.

“If 2012 has laid the foundations for

future growth then in the coming year RFID will surely proliferate into new sectors and innovation will allow the technology to be applied to previously unexplored applications.”

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