SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Monza R6 tag chip from Impinj Inc. was named Internet of Things Product of the Year in the annual ACE Awards. The product was cited in the program sponsored by EE Times and EDN on July 21 as an example of the company’s sustained efforts to nurture the fledgling market for UHF RFID tags.
It wasn’t easy culling out a winner in a year flooded with new products entering the Internet of Things. Crowdfunding Web sites alone attract engineers and hobbyists alike to create prototypes on a daily basis of everything from smart water sprinklers to intelligent toothbrushes. In the midst of the IoT pile on, the ACE Awards judges felt it was appropriate to pick out an effort that showed the importance of long-term sustained effort, and Impinj provided an excellent example.
The company, founded in 2000 with help from semiconductor industry veteran Carver Mead, has ridden the ups and downs of RFID. In 2003, it rode the hype curve generated in part by Wal-Mart’s decision to mandate use of tags, and it rode the trend back down when deployments failed to pan out as expected.
Today, the UHF RFID business is not as big as once projected, but it’s healthy and growing. Retailers represent 60% of the market, growing in RFID sales volumes at least 25% a year, said Bill McBeath, chief research officer of Chainlink Research (Newton, Mass.).
“That sector has compelling return-on-investment, and we see good growth for 5-10 years,” McBeath said, noting a smorgasbord of other markets are growing at slower rates.
Impinj has two rivals in chips for UHF tags, Alien Technology and the much larger NXP, now awaiting approval to merge with Freescale Semiconductor. Nevertheless Impinj leads in sales of UHF tag chips and is the only company also to offer reader chips.
Its latest tag chip, the Monza R6, drove read sensitivity up to -22.1 dBm and write sensitivity to –18.8 dBm using a dipole antenna. The sensitivity was a response to retailers’ demands for smaller products without reducing their transmit distance.
The products also added a new layer of on-chip diagnostics. “They continue to make technology investments that differentiate them,” said McBeath.
“The killer application for UHF RFID that has been identified (after years of trying many things – many unsuccessfully) has been apparel tagging which is significantly driving demand of RFID,” said Raghu Das, CEO of market watcher IDTechEx, in an email exchange.
Monza R6 tag chip
wins IoT product of the year >
at 2015 ACE Awards.
“In 2014, 3.9 billion UHF RFID tags were sold according to our research and of that three billion were used for apparel,” Das said. “That application is far from saturation so there is strong growth for this application over the coming years, but other big applications have yet to emerge,” he added.
In mid April, Impinj announced, it has sold 10 billion Monza chips to date. That’s a big deal for a small company toughing it out in the face of larger competitors despite the ups and downs in an emerging market – and even helping set some of the RFID industry standards along the way.
The battles are far from over, especially with a big push for near-field communications in smartphones and beyond. But Iminj has shown it has some of the right stuff a lot of IoT companies are likely to need in the coming years.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times
The ACE Awards were presented during the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley on July 21, 2015. The full list of winners can be found here.
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