IBM unveils RFID ‘privacy protector’

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IBM unveils RFID ‘privacy protector’

IBM has introduced an innovative solution to solve privacy concerns about RFID (radio frequency identification): preventing the tags’ means of communication.

The technology, dubbed ‘Clipped Tag’, will allow consumers to shorten the range of RFID from feet to inches by simply snapping off a portion of the tag's radio antenna.

Clipped tags with shortened antennas would give consumers control to exercise warranties or recalls because RFID is essentially deactivated when out of range of the point of sale reader and only reactivated when returned to the reader.

The tags, made in IBM’s case by partner Marnlen Management, usually have a read range of 30 feet, and it is possible that a consumer product using an embedded RFID tag could be read without the knowledge of the consumer.

Some privacy specialists believe the clipped tags idea solves the problem of how to protect a consumer's privacy while still offering them the benefits of RFID technology.

However, the reality is that item-level RFID tagging is still years away, though there are about 1 billion RFID tags currently being made for pallet and cases. There are about 100 billion cases created worldwide per year.

Providing a DIY means of cutting off the antenna seems a rather blunt approach to neutering RFID tags, but it could work. It was probably inspired by an IBM-er who’d had his car aerial similarly ‘neutered’ overnight by some local yobs.


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