RFID Security Forum

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nip/Tuck comes to RFID

Contributed by Louis Parks:

IBM announced a new method they have patented called Clipped Tag Technology. It is as easy to explain as it is to use. A consumer simply pulls off the RFID antennae from a RFID-enabled tag hung on the outside of an item to shorten the read range. Not clear enough – you can go to the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95VOxKp0s74&mode=related&search

I applaud IBM for acknowledging the privacy white elephant in the room that too many in our industry have tried to ignore. I also think the simplicity of their idea makes it likely that it will gain some traction. In fact, one Canadian company has already licensed the method and announced a retail tag for immediate availability.

Unfortunately, it is only part of the solution and a few small issues still linger. First, some amount of privacy comes only if the consumer deactivates the tags. How many of you actually cut out those tags that say “remove after purchase”? If you do remember to disable the tag it is not clear what the reduced read range is. Remember, the short read-range RFID tags – think payment cards with only a few inch read-range - have been read from over 150 feet in university tests. This solution also assumes the tags will be accessible. We have been contacted by several consumer manufacturers who want RFID tags inserted in their products – where they can not be accessed - because they are more concerned about the $200B of counterfeit goods that enter their markets each year.

Regardless of any apparent issues with Clipped Tag technology this is still a move in the right direction and will hopefully make its way onto consumer shelves soon. More important, it shows IBM and others recognize that real solutions are necessary now to meet security and privacy needs.

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