The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by risk mitigation, supply chain management, social responsibility, and data analytics and the growing importance of technologies such as fintech, robotic inventory management, and smart checkout. In the last three years alone, there have been over 156,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in retail: NFC product tagging. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

50+ innovations will shape the retail industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 115,000 patents, there are 50+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, automated self-service kiosks and in-store theft monitoring are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Robotic warehouse management, autonomous delivery vehicle navigation systems, and interactive vending kiosks are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are NFC product tagging and smart PoS systems, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the retail industry

NFC product tagging is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

NFC product tagging utilizes near field communication (NFC) technology inbuilt in smartphones to scan product tags and provide information about it to the customer. The technology helps customers to easily access information such as pricing, promotions, and other details.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 80+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of NFC product tagging.

Key players in NFC product tagging – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.  

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to NFC product tagging

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Headwater Partners I 356 Unlock Company Profile
Headwater Research 244 Unlock Company Profile
Cox Enterprises 204 Unlock Company Profile
AT&T 113 Unlock Company Profile 81 Unlock Company Profile
Flex 64 Unlock Company Profile
Nio 57 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 55 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 53 Unlock Company Profile
Monticello Enterprises 49 Unlock Company Profile
Verimatrix 38 Unlock Company Profile
Upaid Systems 38 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 35 Unlock Company Profile
eBay 27 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 26 Unlock Company Profile
Tencent 22 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 21 Unlock Company Profile
Mastercard 20 Unlock Company Profile
IP 18 Unlock Company Profile
AinaCom 18 Unlock Company Profile
Visa 16 Unlock Company Profile
PayPal 16 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 15 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 14 Unlock Company Profile
Akamai Technologies 14 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 13 Unlock Company Profile
Fanuc 12 Unlock Company Profile
Capital One Financial 12 Unlock Company Profile
Best Buy 11 Unlock Company Profile
Pej 10 Unlock Company Profile
Hilton Worldwide 10 Unlock Company Profile
Skype Technologies S.A 10 Unlock Company Profile
Jamf 9 Unlock Company Profile
Advanced New Technologies 9 Unlock Company Profile
Verizon Communications 8 Unlock Company Profile
Chegg 8 Unlock Company Profile
Swirl Networks 8 Unlock Company Profile
Time Warner Cable 7 Unlock Company Profile
Sensoriant 7 Unlock Company Profile
KT 6 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 6 Unlock Company Profile
Afero 6 Unlock Company Profile
Live Nation Entertainment 6 Unlock Company Profile
Meta Platforms 6 Unlock Company Profile
Bizmodeline 6 Unlock Company Profile
Criteo 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Attentive Mobile 5 Unlock Company Profile
JVCKENWOOD 5 Unlock Company Profile
Walt Disney 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The leading players in  the NFC product tagging space in terms of patents filed are Headwater Partners I, Headwater Research, Cox Enterprises, and AT&T. As a major network provider, AT&T provides a multitude of NFC tags to serve various purposes of a retailer. NFC product tagging makes it easier for retailers to catalog their inventory and manage supply according to the immediate demand for products. It also reduces pressure on in-store personnel as consumers become less dependent on the staff for trivial information about the products.

Visa is the leading company in terms of application diversity, while Time Warner Cable and Upaid Systems, are in the second and third positions, respectively.

In terms of geographic reach, Headwater Partners I leads the pack, followed by Nio and AT&T.

With growing usage of the technology, retailers can embed website URLs, infomercials, electronic brochures and product information into digital posters and electronic stickers, allowing shoppers to access the information when they scan them with their devices. NFC tags can also be curated to contain tailored information on deals, upcoming sales and other offers, making them an effective marketing tool for a retailer.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail and Apparel.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.