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How are RFID and the Internet of Things linked?

While the Internet of Things concept emerged from the RFID community, it has since expanded well beyond its origins. But RFID will still play an important role in the growing IoT world.

The term Internet of Things (IoT) was first coined by the RFID community over a decade ago. The concept behind...

the term was that tagging physical "things" is all well and good, but it is the resulting data about the things that really matters. And in today’s global supply chain where things are made anywhere and shipped somewhere else, it makes sense to store the data about the thing in the cloud to make it available to trading partners.

Since those early days, the IoT concept has expanded to include most anything that is connected to the Internet -- wired or wireless -- so IoT has expanded beyond the RFID community. However, RFID-enabled applications are still one of the segments in this ever-expanding IoT marketplace.

RFID data becomes most valuable in the context of multi-party, multi-stage or multi-enterprise processes. At its most basic, RFID can provide simple data about a thing as it is scanned. Read/write RFID can collect more data as the thing passes from place to place, while RFID with more storage can collect quite a bit of data. And RFID with sensors and/or GPS can make the thing even more intelligent by collecting and providing additional data about the thing and its condition -- temperature, location and so on.

Of course, the Internet is the best place for multi-party data sharing, so this marriage, if you will, between RFID and the Internet of Things is important and lasting. Though there are applications that use RFID that have no need for data sharing outside of a facility or enterprise application, the value proposition we see most often for RFID investments leverage the data beyond the one instance.

Things that need to be monitored on a continuous basis require data collection about the thing, its condition, location, ownership and so on. These are strong use cases for RFID: applications for services parts in operation such as Telco gear, medical devices, aerospace and automotive parts; tracking and updating product quality in the pharmaceutical and food industries; or high-value assets that need to be tracked and transformed -- all these need ongoing data about the things stored for their lifetime.

This data also needs to be made available to multiple parties, from trading partners to customers to the government. The hope is that leveraging the Internet will enable industries to standardize the data so it becomes dynamically useful to these parties, thus providing a broad and long-lived return on investment.

More and more things are mobile and remote and they will need methods to collect and communicate information. The IP address needs to be supplemented with other information about the thing related to condition, context, location and security. RFID can provide these supplements, thus the relationship between RFID and the Internet of Things will continue to flourish.

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This was last published in March 2015

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