Chinese Library Implements RFID

InformationWeek reports on a Chinese library implementing RFID
technology to reduce theft and speed up the shelving proces, concepts
which I mused on in the past. They don't appear to be going the extra
step and implementing warehouse management-style optimizations to the
layout of the library as I advocated in my previous article.

Check out the full article about Jimei University Library's project with
Shanghai RFID System Technology Co. Ltd. and UPM Raflatac here:

Posted on January 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

RFID Passport Concerns Persist

Not long after my own observations on RFID passports were released on my site, Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Internet Security wrote a much more indepth article published in Wired online. Echoing my sentiment that the technology will be marching forward and that we must be mindful of the implications on our human rights, he goes on to examine the protections that are being implemented- there will be a security key required to access the data on the tag, which is read optically from the passport. The tag will be protected further from distant readings by incorporating metallic foil into the passport cover.

I actually find these measures somewhat reassuring, in spite of the RFID serial number collision-avoidance problem mentioned in the article. The State Department, while it did design the RFID implementation behind closed doors, seems to have responded to feedback from the public about the privacy issues surrounding RFID tags. Schneier is less optimistic, stating that the State Department is "already committed to a scheme before knowing if it even works or if it protects privacy." Perhaps they are committed to a plan, but the public voice can surely have further impact. Get involved in the discussion. Write to your local newspapers, call your congressmen, call talk radio, etc. The watchdogs among us probably feel as though the goverment and industries they observe are not listening- but I would like to call the public's attention to the NLP Presupposition "You can't NOT communicate" - in this case, the public's silence and apathy are a signal to "go ahead, we think it's okay"

Posted on November 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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 | Comments (0) | TrackBack