Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Bluetooth and UWB to disrupt asset tracking market, says ABI

Steve Rogerson
September 13, 2016
Bluetooth LE beacon and ultra-wideband (UWB) technologies threaten to disrupt the real-time location system (RTLS) and asset tracking markets, according to ABI Research.
It forecasts that products from innovators such as Bluvision, DecaWave, and Uwinloc, along with the arrival of the industrial IoT, will result in a combined RTLS and asset tracking market that more than triples from its current standpoint to reach $15bn in 2021.
"For the first time, enterprises don't have to choose between high accuracy, low cost and ease of deployment," said Patrick Connolly, principal analyst at ABI Research. "Emerging start-ups like Sintra, Quuppa, Quantitec and Mist can offer all three using proprietary BLE and UWB. This poses a serious threat to current market holders, as traditional technologies, like active-RFID, wifi and legacy UWB, remain restricted due to an inability to meet the aforementioned criteria."
These traditional technologies will still have a place, but it will be increasingly marginalised, particularly as smartphones and wearables become more predominant in industrial spaces. ABI forecasts a 5:1 ratio on new RTLS technology tags versus traditional RTLS technologies by 2021, with significant growth into new greenfield applications such as pallet tracking, condition monitoring and inventory management.
Companies such as Zebra that offer a mixture of traditional and new technologies that can be implemented and managed together under one platform will do well in the new market dynamic.
And the divide between active RTLS and passive asset tracking is blurring. Retailers' growing need for accurate, real-time in-store inventory data led to Impinj and View Technologies developing passive RFID RTLS products, with ABI expecting many more to follow given the huge potential of this market.
Similarly, Uwinloc's passive UWB technology provides high accuracy at passive RFID level costs, with near real-time location updates. However, ABI says it is important to point out that passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID remains the dominant technology in terms of volumes and revenues throughout the forecast period.  
Moving forward, companies such as Avery Dennison, which recently partnered with Evrything, will develop products that can track items beyond the point-of-sale and throughout their lifetimes. This brings benefits such as authenticity verification, customer engagement, re-orders, loyalty programmes and post-sale services via a BLE beacon community.
"The increasing demand for instant gratification from customers will drive new competitive business models, including on-demand load matching and the uberisation of delivery, from companies like Cargomatic and Confreight," said Connolly. "Longer term, wearables and robotics will lead to an even greater need for accurate, real-time location data to improve performance."