China and Taiwan seek cooperation in RFID

A conference on RFID (radio frequency identification) wireless technology opened today in Taipei promising to open the road to cooperation between China and Taiwan on how the two can further develop the technology and use it in products and services.

The RFID conference is a chance for companies from both places to see what products are on offer and where they can work together. Talks could eventually lead to cooperation on the joint development of technical standards, something China and Taiwan have found common ground on recently.

Last month, the first test network for China's homegrown 3G technology, TD-SCDMA (Time-Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) opened in Taiwan, with pledges by companies and officials to make more use of the technology. China and Taiwan also early this month announced a plan to promote the ePub (.epub) e-book format for the Chinese-language market.

Taiwanese companies hope the RFID conference will give them a chance to sell RFID products in China's vast market, where they see a lot of potential for RFID in areas such as medical applications, said Maggie Lin, a representative of the Taipei Computer Association, a co-organizer of the event and one of the biggest technology industry groups in Taiwan.

"This is a chance to meet and discuss what opportunities there are to increase trade and interact in RFID technology," she said.

The use of RFID has grown in China. The nation has already issued 900 million of its newest national identification cards with RFID built in and has expanded use of the technology to transportation, farming, shipping, warehousing and other areas, said Tan Min, a researcher from the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in China.

The market for RFID in China grew to 1.22 billion Chinese yuan (US$178.4 million) last year, he said, up from 170 million yuan in 2005.

Chinese provincial governments and companies are making use of RFID in a range of areas. The technology is now being used in Beijing for toll booth payments to speed the flow of traffic, as well as for tickets at conventions and events. The World Expo in Shanghai next year is expected to draw over 80 million people, and tickets will carry RFID inside, Tan said.

Local governments throughout China have made use of RFID in other areas, he said, from RFID tags on shipping containers at the port of Shanghai to propane tanks and other containers for dangerous chemicals or gases. RFID tags are used with food as well, such as tagging produce to ensure its fresh and ear tags for farm animals to keep track of them.

State-run Kweichow Moutai has even installed RFID tags to the bottle caps of its liquors for inventorying, Tan said.

New projects in the works for RFID include tagging cigarette packs by the tobacco control bureau and for parts inventory in the auto industry, he said. He did not offer an estimate for how much China's RFID market might be worth this year.

RFID revenue globally will likely reach US$5.56 billion [B] industry this year, up from $5.25 billion last year, according to market researcher IDTechEx.

The Taiwan government is playing host to the 2009 RFID Weekin Taipei, while industry groups co-organized the event. Seminars, meetings and a trade show will run all this week.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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