The history of adoption of RAIN RFID for the European markets started back in the late nineties/early noughties, following the opening of the Auto-ID Centre (AIDC) in Europe, initially in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and the introduction of Electronic Product Code (EPC).
Early adopters of the technology in Europe comprised of industries such as retail, automotive, aviation and supply chain. Europe was seen as leading the charge when it came to UHF RFID technology, through the emergence of RFID focused solution providers, hardware and tag manufacturers, and with the excitement came new investment and business opportunities.
Retail continued to pave the way for UHF RFID in Europe, with several large organisations introducing the technology into its workflows and supply chains. The continued advancement in quality and accuracy of RFID hardware, a wider variety of RFID tag and label types for diverse use cases, the introduction of new standards, plus a decrease in implementation costs meant a sustained embracement of UHF in various markets and in countless applications across the continent. Despite all of this activity, and the fact that some of the earliest trials and solutions were in European hospitals, due to complexities of the healthcare supply chain this sector was a little slower than others – but this is rapidly changing.
Things are ramping up in the UHF RFID space, not just in Europe, but globally. The introduction of UHF RFID also known as RAIN RFID– a name given by the global RAIN alliance of companies active in delivery of the technology and aimed at helping promote universal adoption- has helped in increasing the awareness of what is available and promoted global sharing of knowledge and expertise. This is a step forward in terms of branding the technology, helping with exposure and acceptance in the same way that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have done.
Since 2020, Europe, including the Middle East and Africa, sits as the second largest market for investment in RAIN RFID, which is partly been driven by increased use in automotive and manufacturing. The United Kingdom and Germany continue to be the primary contributors to the adoption in Europe, as well as the main countries undertaking research and development of the technology.
Europe is still seeing significant adoption and a positive trend of implementing automated solutions and use of internet connected sensors. Adding to this, Europe has a strong and reliable communications infrastructure with high-speed internet, which is ubiquitous, well supported, and maintained. With this, cloud-connected RFID solutions can flourish, and the economic powerhouses of Europe are expected to remain in an upward direction for the forthcoming period.
The impact of COVID-19 on Europe was and continues to be severe…
Healthcare in Europe has a rising need for enhancing efficiency and visibility. An outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a recognition of the need for change in the industry. Hospitals will be required to have greater visibility of inventory, including medicines, medical devices, surgical instruments and personal protective equipment (PPE). This will ultimately lead to automation, creating a rush for RAIN RFID and IOT solutions.
With European governments introducing greater regulations, and need for standards across all industries, this has also demonstrated the need to turn to technology and digitalisation. The commencement of new regulations, such as Unique Device Identifier (UDI) and The EU Medical Device Regulation (EU MDR) will also accelerate the adoption and enrichment of RAIN RFID use in Europe.
RFID hardware choices and availability of solutions that are specifically tailored to their use case are becoming more common place. These developments have led to a positive impact on the healthcare market, with return on investment (ROI) realised in ever decreasing timeframes, and substantial savings in labour and costs.
The future looks positive for RAIN RFID for the European Healthcare market. Several research groups are forecasting growth over the next decade, with ongoing implementations of solutions for tracking of assets, patient experience and safety, automation of bed availability and discharge, even linen and laundry traceability, but most noticeably, the investment and advancement in using RAIN RFID for better management of inventory, whether equity or consignment, and the overall healthcare supply chain.
Healthcare is changing, and out of the pandemic, we will see a revolution in technology adoption, whether this be at manufacturing level, distribution, hospital or patient focused, and even at home through the use of internet connected devices for telehealth. RAIN RFID use in the European healthcare market will see considerable financial savings, supply chain productivity, improved customer safety, and greater satisfaction at the services they receive. With an aging population in Europe, from the period of the baby boomers after World War II, the strain on healthcare services is evident, and all areas of the healthcare industry are struggling to keep up with demands.
Digitalisation and automation will take on a more critical role moving forward, in all aspects of healthcare delivery. As the need for more cost-effective products and services increases in necessity, and stresses on the market persist, the responsibility, accountability, vision and innovation of those shepherding healthcare in Europe during the 21st century will become ever more important and ensuring the safety of societies across the continent will be paramount.