Maximizing the Full Potential of RFID

Success is a matter of offering the right products at the right time and at the right prices. That describes the scope of duties of SMARTRAC’s Product House, which has been headed by Thomas Hitzer since October 2013. Having started his career in the RFID industry in 1989, and having joined SMARTRAC with the acquisition of KSW microtec in 2011, Thomas Hitzer has unique industry expertise. For this edition of the newsletter, he shares his thoughts.


What makes SMARTRAC a global pacesetter in the RFID market?


It’s safe to say that SMARTRAC has the broadest product portfolio in the RFID industry. Encompassing basic UHF tags for retail use; contactless card products for transportation, banking and access; animal and automotive transponders; and complex, high-security products for eID and governmental purposes, SMARTRAC can satisfy any demand.


Another aspect is that SMARTRAC excels in technological versatility, enabling tailored solutions such as dual-interface cards, for example.


No matter what frequency range they prefer, customers can choose between different antenna and chip connection technologies. Furthermore, our production resources ensure security of supply for quantities of up to billions of pieces per year.


Some other important points are the pre- and post-sales service we offer, such as field consultancy services prior to a product being developed, and, of course, our time-to-market advantage. Our sample shops are usually able to provide prototypes of new products in less than three weeks. Last but not least, I’d like to mention intellectual property: we continuously expand our patent portfolio, which is crucial to stay ahead of our competition.


Overall, it is important that our company can anticipate market trends, and not just service them, in order to deliver best-in-class products and services to our customers globally.


Looking back at 25 years in the RFID industry, what is your view on the development of the global RFID market?


RFID is gaining acceptance, as it gradually becomes part of almost everybody’s daily life. There have been several breakthrough applications, each causing a leap forward for the industry. Examples are animal identification, access control, car immobilizers, RFID-based ID cards and passports – and also single-item tracking solutions for retailers. After a rather slow start, NFC technology is currently conquering several markets and is now being used for contactless payment, for example.


That progress has always been driven by an increasing demand for security, efficiency and convenience, and globally, there is little difference. Generally in Europe and Northern America, the focus lies on security of supply and technological complexity, whereas in parts of Asia, price is the number one consideration. Reliability and high quality are taken for granted around the globe.


What will drive RFID growth for the next few years?


We are developing towards becoming an information society. The demand for security, efficiency and convenience calls for access to a rapidly increasing amount of information. The transponder acts as a link between a product, a process and the related data and information. That is why it is crucial that this link is offered at a very good price-performance ratio, outstanding quality and excellent reliability. Also, there is a need to offer customers additional services that leverage and enhance the transponder’s abilities regarding the respective data and information. These are major factors that will certainly drive RFID growth for next few years.


The most important driver for many years to come will be the evolution of what we call the Internet of Everything. Building that “SMART COSMOS” is a central theme for SMARTRAC – but explaining that would go far beyond the scope of this interview.


What are the main challenges in 2015 and the years ahead?


There will definitely be no shortage of challenges. The first is the increasing pressure on costs: we will need new, innovative product proposals to answer the challenges of the highly competitive single-item tracking market in the retail business.


The second challenge is related to design: ID card and passport manufacturers want thinner eID inlays, which allow them to add more security layers to their products. The third is to develop cost-effective and functionally superior products for wide adoption in hotel access, the event and entertainment businesses, and a variety of many other industrial applications.


In addition, we will enhance our NFC product portfolio, create practical applications for the Internet of Everything, and continue not only to drive innovation, but also to transform it into commercial success.


To finish on a completely different note: which book has impressed you recently?


A book called “The Secret Diary of Roman Emperor Augustus”, written by German author Philipp Vandenberg. Though largely fictional, it gives interesting insights into the strategies of a leader who was more successful than his reputation.


Thank you for your time, Thomas.