Chips and plugs

The violent protest rallies of human rights defenders and the emotional discussions that are going on around technologies based on radio-identification chips (RFID) can, apparently, have a tangible effect on the specific nuances in the work and deactivation of the microcircuits. But at the same time, RFID tags offer such obvious and substantial economic benefits that their speedy introduction into various spheres of life is almost inevitable. That was once again emphasized at a recent press conference hosted by the EU administration for announcing the start of a comprehensive pan-European project to study all aspects of the massive use of RFID. Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, who told about this initiative, said that it is planned to release 600 million radio-identification chips this year, and this figure will increase 450 times over the next ten years.

The flow of news about a variety of applications, in which RFID is already being successfully applied, is growing every month. Reading, in her report, in particular, mentioned the European Airbus Aircraft Concern, where RFID now marks all the elements of aircraft under construction — brakes, seats, seat belts, etc. — that are subject to regular replacement so that they themselves can announce the update when they are scanned. . By the flowery expression of Reading, the large-scale use of radiolabel chips unites the Internet world of cyberspace and the real world surrounding a person into one whole.

By chance, the date of the press conference of the European Commission coincided with the first results of an impressive technological experiment, arranged in the Swedish capital based on RFID. The Stockholm Congestion Charging Scheme (SCCS), an automated traffic control system developed by IBM, in just one month provided Stockholm with a significant reduction in traffic congestion during peak hours. True, such a remarkable result was achieved in a rather specific way, which is worth mentioning in more detail.

The system is based on the concept that all drivers, who in one way or another contribute to the formation of traffic jams on roads, driving into the central part of the city (an area of 24 sq. Km), must pay for it. The fee is charged automatically, mainly using small RFID boxes attached to the upper edge of the windshield from the passenger compartment. On all highways leading to the city center, electronic registration stations are installed that read identification information from RFID and transfer it to the central database, which automatically withdraws the proper amount from the bank account of the car owner. Car owners attach RFID tags voluntarily because it gives a discount in payment. Machines that do not have RFID are processed according to a slightly different pattern: their license plates are photographed by surveillance cameras, the computer recognizes letters and numbers, and then the number “breaks through” in the national database of registered vehicles. The account established for this database is sent to the owner, which can be paid via the Internet or in a number of stores. Officials say that the artificial intelligence system used in the optical recognition of license plates is rarely mistaken, but they do not give exact numbers.

In general, SCCS allowed the city authorities to make the scheme of charges and traffic regulation very flexible, varying depending on the days of the week and the time of day. Fares for Stockholm drivers will be charged on weekdays from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm. The value of the collection varies, reaching a maximum during peak hours. Since RFID technology allows drivers to immediately compare the time spent on metropolitan roads with the state of their own bank account, the results of the experiment affected very quickly. In just a month, the daily traffic during peak hours declined in the center of Stockholm by a quarter (approximately 100,000 cars). Under the new conditions for many residents of the capital, it turned out to be more convenient to drive to one of the stops around the city center (their number was increased to the introduction of the SCCS system), and then to go by public transport.

After seven months of testing, the residents of Stockholm will vote to accept this curious innovation, or to abandon it. The mayor of the capital Annika Billstrom (Annika Billstrom) believes that the most important contribution of the new technology is to provide a cleaner and healthier environment in the city, which is why the Swedish experience should be of interest to many megacities of Europe and the whole world. According to IBM, the authorities in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington are currently discussing the introduction of a similar system for regulating automobile traffic. And in London, a similar scheme (but without using RFID tags, only with number recognition cameras) has been in place for three years.