After months of discussions with industry leaders about the potential uses for RFID, the European Union is opening talks to the public.
The EU launched on July 3 a public forum, “Your Voice in Europe,” in which citizens (and other “stakeholders”) are encouraged to discuss the potential uses and potential threats of RFID (radio-frequency identification).
“As the development of RFID technology is still in full swing, it is difficult to say the final word about opportunities and threats,” read an introductory page on the Your Voice in Europe Web site.
“Nevertheless, sides seem to have already formed before all stakeholders are truly informed. In order to further the debate the European Commission sees its role as providing a balanced overview of the state-of-play and the possible actions needed.”
The EU started formally looking at RFID earlier in 2006. From March through June it held a series of workshops with governmental agencies and the private sector to examine the various aspects of RFID.
In addition to the technology itself, the sessions focused on a bevy of topics, including the economic and societal rationale for RFID applications; RFID security, data protection and privacy; health and safety issues; RFID interoperability, standardization and intellectual property rights; and frequency specification requirements.
Now the EU is shifting its focus to bringing the public into the discussion.
In October the EU plans to pull all its information together—culled from the workshops as well as the Web site—and present the results to “an audience of experts and decision makers,” according to the Web site. By the end of 2006, it plans to present its findings to the European Parliament.
RFID in Europe is already picking up speed—fast. Most EU governments are expected to be ready to issue RFID-chipped passports by August 28. The passports will contain biometric capabilities that reduce patterns of fingerprints, irises and faces to mathematical algorithms stored on the chip. (The U.S. State Department has a similar edict in place, planning to issue RFID-chipped passports by the end of 2006).
Metro Group, the worlds fifth-largest retailer, has been using RFID in its supply chain since November 2004, when its top 100 suppliers began tagging pallets with RFID tags. Close to 300 Metro stores receive RFID tagged goods, and the company said it plans to tag all its items with RFID within the next 10 to 15 years.
And at the Allianz Arena in Munich, arguably the worlds most technologically equipped sports facility, using cash is no longer an option for ticket holders. While the RFID-chipped tickets for this summers World Cup games are used only for access control, regular football games at the stadium are a different story.
The Arena implemented Koninklijke Philips Electronics “contactless” infrastructure in 2005. As a result, game attendees get a pre-paid ticket into the stadium that they must add cash to in order to pay for everything from parking to pretzels.
While no personal data is stored on the chips embedded in the tickets, according to Philips officials, purchasers are required to give some fairly personal information to FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) in order to purchase a ticket: name, address, date of birth, nationality, passport number, telephone number, e-mail address, credit card number and a declaration of which sports team the purchaser supports, according to bloggers following FIFAs RFID implementation.