John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · 1 December 2003
RFID Applications
RFID is now becoming a barcode-replacing reality. The impact may be more far-reaching than you imagine. Let's consider some of the likely applications.

The reason why people think RFID explosion is imminent is that Walmart has just mandated that its top 100 suppliers use RFID on shipping pallets and other inventory packaging. This is just a start but it is not hard to see that the use of RFID will grow quickly from here. The costs of the chips and readers is also decreasing fast.

One of the biggest changes with RFID is that it allows unique objects to be identified. Bar codes only tell you what kind of object it is. RFID codes can uniquely identify any object. That means for example that every book, piece of candy, ticket, CD, dollar bill, anything can be individually identified. For example, lets say a criminal buys a book using a credit card. The book later comes into the inventory of a used-book dealer. You buy the book from the dealer. The authorities scan your library and find the book. Now they have a question for you: what are you doing with this criminal's book? You can see where this is going from a forensic point of view.

In biological science RFID could be used in many ways. For example, instead of using clumsy bands to tag birds and other animals they will be injected with an RFID tag. This tag can later be read without having to handle the animal or even to capture it in some circumstances. You just read the tag as it flies by.

If we tag currency with RFID it will mean that there will no longer be such a thing as an anonymous purchase. Every time you buy something, even with cash, it will be traceable. By the same token your movements will become traceable because whenever you spend money it will leave a trail. Also, if "security" readers are set up in chokepoint locations such as building entrances they can indirectly identify people. For example, let's say you buy a shirt and do not find and remove the tag (which is the size of a grain of sand). Then when you go past a reader it will record the exact ID of that shirt which can be traced to your purchase of it. Likewise everything else you are wearing or carrying can be tracked.

By combining cameras with readers it will possible to completely track anyone moving around in a public area. If hacker X wants to see what Britney Spears did today they can find every time she passed a reader and if there are cameras for that reader or nearby the images can be picked up. By sewing the images together the hacker can make a complete movie of all her public activities that day or any day.

Ultimately it is easy to see that not just animals but people will be tagged. Starting with political prisoners and working their way up from there the authorities or anyone who wants to control someone can tag them. Get ready for the brave new world.

Developer Diary · · bio · Revised 1 December 2003 · Pure Content