IBM Develops Scratch-off RFID Tags

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2005-11-07
IBM researchers have developed a method to ensure consumer privacy while using RFID tags that imitate scratch-off lottery tickets and perforated clothing labels.

While the RFID device would remain on the shirt, can or package itself, IBMs idea is attach a partially destructible RFID antenna so that the consumer can remove it after purchase.

IBM researchers introduced the concept in a paper presented Monday at the Association for Computing Machinerys Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society in Alexandria, Va.

Destroying part of the antenna would degrade the antenna range from a few meters down to a few inches, helping to alleviate concerns that hidden RFID scanners could "read" the contents of a consumers shopping cart, identifying what they purchased.

Click here to read about the State Departments beginning a switch to RFID passports.

Although RFID technology could be used by a variety of applications, the technology has been assailed by pro-privacy groups worried that the technology could be used to spy on their belongings.

On Monday, Nicholas Chavez, chief executive of RFID Inc., published a 25-page rebuttal (here in PDF form) of a recent book, "SpyChips," which examined the RFID industry from a privacy perspective.

Although IBM does not manufacture the tags themselves, researchers said they will pitch the new consumer-friendly tag idea to EPC Global Inc. and other RFID organizations, in the hopes that the tag designs may become an industry standard.

Currently, RFID tags are typically used to identify pallets of consumer goods, rather than individual items, in projects such as Wal-Marts ongoing RFID initiative or the Department of Defenses RFID mandate.

However, both corporations and privacy groups are looking ahead to the day when the tiny chips can be mounted on individual devices.

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