Silent revolution

Things and technologies surrounding us have been changing very quickly lately, producing real revolutions in the way of life, although they usually pass “without noise and dust”. Not everyone thinks about it, taking everything as a natural change of day and night. But if you think about it, it’s very difficult to imagine today's world without these things. The Internet, mobile communications, GPS systems, handheld computers, digital photography and video shooting are only a small part of the iceberg. Today we are experiencing another such revolution, whose name is RFID.
... almost everyone knows
Yes, the phrase “contactless smart card” has been familiar to Moscow students and schoolchildren for several years, who use them extensively, for example, as travel tickets in the subway, and retirees in several districts of Moscow know the same card from a pilot project of a Muscovite’s social card. Many of those who use the Moscow and St. Petersburg metro on a daily basis also have such a map, as many of the municipal employees have it.
This card has a proper name - Mifare®. This name is clearly associated today with Philips, although it was developed by Micron, which was later purchased by Philips and became one of its divisions. We will talk about this card, its device and capabilities later, but for now let us recall once again the essence of the radio frequency identification technology (Radio Frequency IDentification) in order to understand its potential possibilities. Those who are already familiar with the basic principles can skip this section.


Having taught a computer with commendable speed to process and store data securely, we have not yet solved the problem of automatically collecting and entering / output information into a computer control system of any process - be it production, trade or transportation. The key to reliable operation of any automated system is the absolute accuracy of the information. RFID technology most fully meets all the requirements of a computer control system, where real-time recognition and registration of objects and their rights are necessary.
So, the RFID system includes three main components (Fig. 1): a tag, a reader with an antenna, and an information processing system. In turn, the reader contains a transmitter, receiver and microcontroller that controls the entire operation of the reader. If it is necessary to perform an operation with a card or tag on a command from the processing system, the reader’s transmitter begins to emit a carrier modulated by the command code. The carrier in the card is rectified and used to power it, and the modulating signal is decoded to determine the actions to be performed. If the request is decoded correctly, the card generates a response and modulates the carrier, changing the load on its antenna circuit. The reader decodes the response of the card and sends it in response to the processing system, where the decision is made in accordance with the logic of the system.
Fig. 1. Structure of the RFID system
Structurally, the reader and antenna can be made both as a single device (this is typical for desktop or handheld readers), and as separate structural units. The latter option is used, as a rule, with large antenna sizes.
When and what design options for readers should be used depends on the application, but we'll talk about this a little later.
RFID around us
It only seems that for now everything is limited to theory and fantasy. The examples below are given only some news of the current year on the introduction of new technology.
• • •
RFID tags are designed to protect pharmacological agents from counterfeiting. Sun Microsystem unveiled a subminiature version of RFID tags designed specifically to combat the growing problem of counterfeiting drugs. Developed with SupplyScape, the novelty will be offered to companies in the pharmaceutical trade chain. “RFID technology will make counterfeiting a drug extremely difficult and unprofitable,” said company representatives.
Source: http://news.proext.com.
• • •
RussGPS, operator of global positioning services, announces the beginning of the supply of Applied Digital Solutions (ADSX, USA) VeriChip RFID technology to Russia. The VeriChip ID is inserted under the skin of a person. Its size is small enough: length - 11 mm, diameter - 2.1 mm. Each chip contains an identification code associated with a database containing information of any kind, including medical information. For the introduction of the identifier under the skin, local anesthesia and a disposable syringe are used. The standard location is in the triceps area, between the elbow and the shoulder of the right hand.
RussGPS proposes to use VeriChip technology for employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and law enforcement agencies, whose professional activities are associated with a constant risk, as well as for those suffering from serious diseases associated with memory disorder. Information from the identifier can save a person’s life by “informing” about a blood type, individual intolerance to certain drugs, or a diagnosis of the disease.
RussGPS and ADSX concluded an agreement according to which during 2004, RussGPS will purchase 1,000 VeriChip and 100 readers. Over the course of 5 years, the company expects to purchase 51 thousand VeriChip and 2.6 thousand readers.
Source: the company's press service.
• • •
RSA Security, at its data security conference, demonstrated a prototype device based on RFID tag blocking technology.
The blocking label, made similar to the main one, is designed to prevent unwanted scanning and tracking of people or property. According to RSA, blocking technology is necessary to prevent anyone from illegally accessing important information.
The blocking technology is based on the principle of a false response to the reader, which they are trying to read the label without having the right to do so, and thus violates its normal operation. The company added that after removing the blocking label from the product, the normal operation of the main label will be restored, but if the working label is within the range of the blocking label, the information will be protected from being read.
Gartner analyst Jeff Woods (Jeff Woods) said that there are some concerns about the legality of the market using RFID technology. The first thing that sellers responded to these concerns is a statement about the destruction or disruption of the label immediately after the sale of goods. However, according to Woods, while disabling tags eliminates fears about privacy, it also negates all customer and after-sales benefits for organizations that use product history in their activities.
Source: based on the website ComputerWeekly.com.
• • •
The Thai government intends to “equip” combat roosters with RFID tags to prevent the spread of the avian flu virus. The installation of microchips, the cost of which is estimated at 36 million Thai baht (approximately 900 thousand dollars), was to begin on March 1 and end in a month.
According to the responsible representative of the Ministry of Agriculture of Thailand, to date, more than 30 million hens, including a number of fighting cocks, have already been destroyed throughout the country. However, it was not possible to stop the further spread of the bird flu epidemic: last week new cases were reported. Experts of the World Health Organization believe that one of the reasons for the continuing spread of the epidemic in Asian countries is the evasion of checking fighting and other expensive poultry species that are hidden for commercial reasons. In Thailand, in which cockfighting is very popular, the price of the winning rooster can reach 2.5 thousand dollars. In this regard, the country's government considers it necessary to take into account all the existing combat roosters, for which RFID tags will be very useful. In addition, the owners of such roosters are required to regularly subject their pets to medical examination at authorized medical institutions.
Source: According to the Xinhua News Agency.
• • •
“Breaking the bank” in Monte Carlo with the advent of new chips in the casino will be much harder. The benefits to casino owners from introducing a new technology, as they say, are obvious: in addition to the complication of counterfeiting and theft of chips, RFID chips will help operators to more accurately control players and the dealer.
Until now, the casino owners have been watching the tables with the help of special hidden cameras. Chips embedded in chips can greatly facilitate the process of observation.
Counterfeit chips are a major concern for casino owners. After all, the chips fake much easier. Until recently, chips were marked with special inks that glow under ultraviolet or infrared light. Appropriate placement of control equipment would reduce the theft of casino employees among themselves.
• • •
New technology using RFID finds application in a wide variety of locations. Recently, the German television channel WDR announced the original idea of the three inventors who suggested using tags on the football field. Equipped with individual beacons, football players and a marked ball can easily recreate an “action card” on the football field, allowing you to track their location in real time as accurately as possible.
A prototype of such a system has already been created. Enthusiasts in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Erlangen Institute are currently testing and refining the invention.
• • •
RFID is gaining popularity. According to some analysts, 2004 is a critical year for RFID. They predict that the acquisition of RFID tags by US retail chains will increase from $ 91.5 million to nearly 1.3 billion in 2008. And the costs will grow like an avalanche. However, as soon as the deployment stage of the RFID technology has reached its peak, which is expected already in 2005, the situation will stabilize.
RFID-systems are used in cases where operational and accurate control, tracking and accounting of numerous movements of various objects are required. Typical applications are:
• control of access and movement of personnel on the territory of the enterprise;
• production management, large warehouses, movement of baggage, mail and material values;
• control, planning and management of passenger traffic and optimization of passenger traffic;
• electronic payment systems for all types of transport, paid parking;
• car alarms and immobilizers.
Thus, while RFID is more expensive than bar coding, it becomes indispensable for a wide range of data acquisition and identification tasks.
Reason for success
Such a rapid development of technology is associated with its indisputable advantages compared to such traditional technologies as, for example, bar coding:
• high resistance to snow, fog, ice, paint and dirt;
• tags are read quickly and accurately, providing almost 100% identification;
• identification tag data can be supplemented and quickly overwritten;
• data on the label is recorded almost instantly, and remotely;
• the data on the label can be classified;
• RF tags are more durable;
• the location of the label does not matter to the reader;
• The label is better protected from environmental exposure.
Even one or two of the advantages of this incomplete list is enough to understand that it is no longer possible to stop the implementation of RFID in everyday life. More than 400 companies are currently operating in the rapidly developing market of RFID systems, and this figure seems to us to be too low. According to Venture Development Corporation (VDC), the global RFID market was estimated at over $ 650 million in 2000, with an annual growth of around 25%. Currently, VDC predicts growth by 2005 to $ 2 billion. This is well illustrated by the diagram in fig. 2, which shows the dynamics of the market over 5 years, including the forecast for 2004-2005.
Fig. 2. Dynamics of the RFID market
The most intensively the technology will be introduced in the field of logistics and accounting of goods, which is due to the fact that the standard that is adopted worldwide is finally developed. But this is already a topic that will be revealed in the next issue of the journal.
"BDI", 2004, № 3 (54)
Leonid Stasenko