Analyst Pegs RFID, 4G As Key Wireless Trends

Machine-to-machine communication, mobile banking, and wireless sensor networks also on the rise over the next decade, says Plunkett Research.

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Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications via wireless will be the main growth platform globally in the coming decade, according to analysis firm Plunkett Research, and nanotechnology will play a key role in assisting automatic controls in these devices to gather data from billions of spots. Driving M2M will be radio frequency identification, or "smart dust" -- "the idea that you can sprinkle remote wireless sensors like dust so they can be everywhere,'' said CEO Jack Plunkett, adding that this is a long-term vision some people have.

"What I do expect over the next 10 years is very deep use of remote wireless sensors in selected applications, such as much more intense use of RFID to track shipments and inventory, and I would say that because RFID is getting down to the point where it makes sense." Presently it costs 15 cents or less for a single tag, said Plunkett, and he believes it will soon be widely down to 5 cents or less. Also propelling its popularity is the ability to print the tags using inkjet technologies, he said.

There will also be increasing use of mobile banking, remittances, and wireless payments, Plunkett said. Particularly in developing countries, "The real transformative power of wireless in payments and banking is... where people who have never had access to bank accounts in remote villages can now use their cell phones to do mobile banking. This is happening in a huge way."

The U.S. is about three to four years behind, Plunkett said, citing the use of several different standards in the deployment of cell phones as a possible hindrance. "We almost have too many choices here and in some ways it has made it slow for Americans to have access to 3G for instance, and other developments."

Another big trend will be in the use of wireless sensor networks here and in the developing world for several purposes, including factory automation, energy controls, intelligent farming, infrastructure condition and quality, inventory control, surveillance, security, and intelligent transportation, Plunkett said.

Among the other notable trends in the "Plunkett's Wireless Wi-Fi, RFID, & Cellular Industry Almanac 2011" are that while ultra-fast 4G develops, 3G cellular systems will continue to be deployed, and that WiMax faces competition from LTE and HSDPA high-speed platforms.

There are roughly 600,000 3G users worldwide at this point, which is growing rapidly, Plunkett said. "It's starting to look like LTE will be a less expensive rollout for the service provider," he observed. "On the other hand, there are situations where WiMax may be more useful," such as in areas where there are no or limited cell towers, since it has good long distance range.

The firm also noted that wireless devices will become a fast-growing market for electronic games and there will be a rapid, major increase in the use of location-based advertising and mobile advertising on cell phones.