• United States

Technical considerations with RFID

Oct 08, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityRFID

* Wireless tracking/scanning could be boon to inventory management

Last time, I began a discussion about radio frequency identification technology, which can be applied in very small form factors to track inventory, read price codes without line-of-sight requirements and take automated action when certain conditions exist. Such systems have the potential to be very useful, so long as they are not applied in an intrusive way.

Low-frequency (30 KHz to 500 KHz) RFID systems have short reading ranges and lower system costs. They are most commonly used for security access, asset tracking and animal identification. High-frequency (850 MHz to 950 MHz and 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz) systems, offer read ranges of usually greater than 90 feet and high “reading” speeds. Currently, they are in use for applications like automated toll collection.

The higher-frequency systems overlap with spectra used for other applications; in particular, the 2.4GHz band is home to 802.11b/g wireless LANs, Bluetooth, cordless phones, microwave ovens, and several other systems. So if you’re running a WLAN and also want a high-speed RFID system, keep the interference issues in mind.

And what of the privacy issue?

We’ve been doing this balancing act for decades, if not centuries. The invention of the automobile (and buses, trains and planes) has led to us quietly sanctioning the loss of thousands of lives each year on our roads for the progress and convenience associated with large-scale mobility.

Your cell phone location can be tracked; in fact, you want it to be traceable when you make a 911 call. But can that application for “good” backfire into an application for “bad?” Sure. People are invading your privacy over the phone, by snail-mail, the Internet.

If the first amendment protects porn creators, allowing them to send me unsolicited, explicitly graphic pictures to my e-mail box, what about my right not to have to unwittingly view them when I innocently open an e-mail attachment?

Obviously, the technology/morality/privacy debate did not begin, nor will it end, with RFID. It’s just another management consideration as we deploy automation capabilities for one purpose that so often lead to other, and perhaps more sinister, applications.