China is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and consumers of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) applications. Current estimates show that China will need over 3 billion RFID tags to satisfy demand in the year 2009. The applications for RFID patents have spread across a very diverse range of inventions and in the future it is likely that most products manufactured in China will contain an RFID tag. China’s RFID industry has grown along with the demand and researchers are making significant technological advances. In this research, patent data from the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO) have been used to explore RFID technology development and its trends. Patent abstracts containing the key word and phrase ‘RFID’ and ‘Radio Frequency Identification’ were collected for analysis, content extraction, and clustering. In total, 1,389 patents from the SIPO database covering the years 1995 to 2008 were retrieved and archived for analysis. Patents provide exclusive rights and legal protection for inventors, play an important role in the development and fair diffusion of technology, and contain detailed specifications necessary to define and protect the boundaries of an invention. Through patent analysis, companies monitor the development of technology and evaluate the position of potential competitors in the market. This research applies patent content analysis to map and interpret the current trends of RFID technology development in China. A patent content clustering method is used to cluster different patent documents into homogenous groups, and then technology forecasting is applied to evaluate possible market opportunities for future inventors and investors. The results suggest that the cluster called RFID wireless communication devices has entered the saturation stage and thus provides limited opportunity for development. Four other clusters; RFID concepts and applications, RFID architecture, RFID tracking implementation, and RFID transmission apparatus, have entered the mature stage. The RFID frequency and waves cluster appears to be in early growth stage with good development potential. Since the technology related to basic RFID concepts and devices has reached a mature stage in China, the research and development seems to be targeting the improvement of the RFID frequencies and waves as a means to develop more reliable RFID systems and applications.

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