Companies across the Middle East, like those in the rest of the world, have been blindsided by the sudden collapse of the global economy. It's led many businesses to put off capital spending until the picture becomes clearer. When it does – and it will – companies will begin to focus on cutting costs to return to profitability, and many will turn to a relatively new technology known as radio frequency identification, or RFID.
RFID is an enabling technology that lets companies automatically capture information on the identity, location and sometimes condition of a person, asset, tool or product. Companies around the world – in a wide range of industries including construction, energy, health care, logistics, manufacturing and retail – are using RFID to gain visibility into their operations and business processes. And that, in turn, enables them to reduce costs and boost efficiencies.
RFID is currently being employed in a variety of applications across the Middle East. Two offshore oil companies owned by the Abu Dhabi Government are using RFID-enabled wristbands to track thousands of employees, to improve security and safety, especially in the event of an emergency. Emirates SkyCargo, the air-freight division of Emirates Airlines, has been using RFID to track cargo assets since 2005. The technology is helping the airline reduce costs and improve customer service.
Kuwait retailer MS Retail has deployed an RFID system at its new children's superstore, Baroue, designed to enable parents to monitor their kids as they play in the store's playground. It gives parents more time to shop, increasing sales. Future Communications, the primary distributor of Nokia phones and accessories in Kuwait, is using RFID in its retail showrooms to improve customer service and inventory management Saudi Post Corporation is using RFID to track and trace valuable mail. Qatar Post has been evaluating RFID technologies as a means for measuring postal quality across Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Several Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, are planning to use RFID-enabled identification cards and passports. The Gulf Co-operation Council, a trade bloc involving the six Arab states of Gulf – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – is championing the use of the RFID-enabled ID cards and passports.
In the current economic climate, more companies will start to turn to RFID out of necessity. In 2007, the market for RFID hardware, software and services in the Middle East was valued at about $18.1 million (Dh66.4m), and last year it was estimated to be worth about $22.9m, according to VDC Research, a technology market research and strategy firm located in Natick, Massachusetts.
This year, VDC estimates the market will reach $29.4m. Overall, the market is expected to grow 25 per cent year over year through 2012. (The countries included in VDC's Middle East forecast are Bahrain Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE and Yemen.)
This year, RFID Journal will host its first RFID technology conference and exhibition in the region – RFID Journal LIVE! Middle East. It's designed to help attendees learn the basics about RFID. It's also an opportunity to hear from end users that have employed RFID to improve business processes and reduce costs in their operations.
Among the RFID expert speakers will be Dr Wasim Radd, who established the first RFID lab in the region at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Sauda Arabia.
The event will be held from June 15 to June 17 at the InterContinental Hotel Festival City in Dubai.
- Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal, the source of news and analysis about radio frequency identification and its many business applications