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New RFID Reader Reads Multiple RFID Tags at Long Range

Trolly Scan, of South Africa, has revealed their new "Radar RFID" technology, which identifies up to 100 tags at a range of 100 meters with a distancing accuracy of .5 meters. Previously, the conventional wisdom held that readers would only work in very close proximity.

I've seen many discussions online about privacy concerns, especially concerning RFID use in passports. These arguments were frequently shot down by the then-current limitations of RFID technology. It would not have been practical to use RFID to pick people out of a large crowd, for instance.  However, the Radar RFID approach seems to make this possible.

Its primary use will, of course, be in the warehouse. Businesses will probably need fewer of these readers, which are claimed to be low-cost.

It may also be possible with this technology to track customers' movements through store aisles. We already have little expectation of privacy there, since we're in public and we're aware of being videotaped most of the time while we're shopping.  But what I'm talking about is monitoring the shopping cart experience for statistical analysis.  Scenario: shopping carts themselves are tagged with RFID. The system monitors the movement of that cart through the ailes of the store, and monitors (remember it has fairly accurate location tracking) what goods are placed in the cart, at what times, and in what order. Finally, this trail could be connected to the checkout process, recording what was bought, or not bought but looked at.  This provides the shopping equivalent of click tracking on a web site. The implications for retailing would be far-reaching.... impacting merchandizing on many levels.

And the concept of retail digital signage interfacing with RFID, which previously seemed to be limited by the range of the reader in that the customer would have to pass VERY close to a reader, perhaps by intentionally bringing an item up to the screen to get pricing information or cooking recipes, could be considerably impacted. Now, a signage unit could be placed above an aisle, targeting advertising at everyone in the aisle based on the items in their cart.

Would this also make some kind of tag cloning at a distance possible? Could someone with ill intentions read many tags at a distance, for instance, credit card RFID tags or something like SpeedPass tags, and clone them for their personal gain?

Regardless of the answers, it's now clear than when considering privacy implications of technology, it's not enough to consider current technology with its limitations! It's inevitable those limitations will be overcome, allowing for a creeping loss of privacy once the door is left open by shortsightedness. The motivation?  Nothing nefarious- the best of intentions are at work in the advancement of technology, but how technology affects our morals and our rights as humans must always be monitored.

Posted on October 25, 2005 | Permalink | Tag this post with del.icio.us | This Post Now Lives Here


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