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point of
data capture
the myths and
realities of RFID
and privacy
By Andy McBain, product manager, Motorola
Andy McBain: The applications
enabled by RFID are vast and,
Enterprise Mobility business, EMEA. in some ways, only limited by a
lack of creativity.
ith the price of RFID and that the technology, when embedded goods. The active tag can use its
tags coming down, in products, can be used to track battery power to provide reads on a
more and more people’s whereabouts. However, this regular basis without being activated
companies are simply isn’t the case. Today, individuals by an RFID reader. Thus, the tags can
investigating the are not monitored from store to store, be used without human intervention to
benefits this technology can bring. even if the stores have readers; the monitor temperatures and ensure the
However, with growing interest also features available in the tags allow medication isn’t damaged during
comes scepticism and scaremongering. them to be disabled at checkout. transport. Conversely, the RFID tags
There have been many mistaken currently used in retail stores are
assumptions and unsupported generally passive tags, which are only
assertions around RFID, specifically Passive and active read when the radio waves from an
about its impact on privacy. For What is and isn’t possible with RFID RFID reader activate their antenna. The
example, many consumers confuse the depends largely on the tags used and higher costs of active tags and the
RFID tags designed for commercial ultimately the cost of the system. There desire of retailers to ensure customer
use with GPS tags used for tracking are two types of RFID tags; passive and privacy have resulted in retailers using
people. As a result they have come to active. An active tag is more expensive passive tags in retail environments. It is
believe that RFID is simply the next and contains a battery and a unlikely that any retailer or manufacturer
stage of a ‘Big Brother’ environment transmitter to send information to an is going to triple the cost of an RFID
RFID reader. Active tags are implementation by using much more
larger than passive tags but expensive active tags, when they won’t
can contain more data about bring any discernable benefits; hence
the product and are commonly the tags tend only to be tracked in the
used for high-value asset store environment where RFID readers
tracking as they have read are present to activate them.
rates of up to 100 feet. Passive
tags, however, are smaller and Many people also believe that RFID
don’t contain batteries. Instead, tags could jeopardise privacy and
they are powered by the radio information security because they store
signal of an RFID reader and valuable personal information, which, if
therefore the read range of accessed, can potentially lead to identity
the tags is shorter – often less theft. However, RFID tags used in the
than 20 feet. retail environment today don’t contain
any confidential information at all.
Active tags are generally used Instead, these RFID tags store and
when the tag needs to store transmit only a Unique Identifying
information related to products Number (UIN) to a reader, much like
en route, such as during the the number associated with a barcode,
transportation of medical which is often printed beneath it. In >>
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