RFID tags that do not contain a silicon chip are called chipless tags. The primary potential benefit of the most promising chipless tags is that eventually they could be printed directly on products and packaging for 0.1 cents and replace ten trillion barcodes yearly with something far more versatile and reliable.
The mainstream types of chipless tags are digitally encoded and work at more than one millimetre range, like silicon chips. Their potential markets go beyond the lowest cost – highest volume potential markets because they have other attributes beyond cost. Indeed today they are sold for higher price than silicon chip tags in some cases and lower cost in others. That will continue to be the case. Unique signature, analogue artefacts such as the magnetically encoded stripe in a banknote or microwave reflecting fibres in security paper can be sensed at one millimetre away and therefore just about fit into our definition of RFID but they have little application beyond anti-counterfeiting. We therefore discuss them only briefly in this report and we omit them from our statistics.
The next ten years will see a rapid gain in market share of chipless tags. The numbers sold globally will rise from 5 million 0.4% in 2006 to 267 billion 45% in 2016. By value, chipless versions will rise from $1.2 million 0.1% in 2006 to $1.39 billion – a more modest 13% of all income from RFID tags in 2016 because most of the increase in penetration will be by price advantage. Including the infrastructure, software and services, that is a $2.8 billion market for chipless RFID systems in 2016. Thereafter, chipless tags will rapidly come to dominate the RFID market though the most technically capable chips, such as financial cards containing microprocessors, 5.8 GHz tags for non-stop road tolling or Ultra Wide Band tags for Real Time Location Systems will continue to be made using silicon chips.