1. How does RFID technology work?
Radio frequency identification technology is an automatic
way to collect product, place, time or transaction data quickly
and easily without human intervention or error.
An RFID system comprises a reader (or interrogator), its associated
antenna and the transponders (Tags/ RFID Cards) that carry
The reader transmits a low-power radio signal, through its
antenna, that the tag receives via its own antenna to power
an integrated circuit (chip). Using the energy it gets from
the signal when it enters the radio field, the tag will briefly
converse with the reader for verification and the exchange
of data. Once that data is received by the reader it can be
sent to a controlling computer for processing and management.
2. Are these systems new?
No, RF identification has been around since the late 60’s
but it is only recently that technological advances have
both brought down the cost and allowed its use for far more
3. What are some of the more established uses?
Your automobile almost certainly has an immobilizer to prevent
it from being stolen. It has been ten years since the Ford
Motor Company first introduced an RFID immobilizer and
such systems are common in vehicles manufactured by the
major manufacturers. RFID has also been used extensively
collection, inventory control, building security, and library
4. Could I be tracked by my car keys?
No. The transponders used in the latest models have a very
short reading range (typically a few inches) and use
encryption between the key and the reader. During manufacture
vehicle, the engine management computer generates a different
number (that is, the secret key for encryption) for each
and every key. Unless that secret number is known, the
vehicle key will not respond. In addition, the reader
be within inches of the key to give the key enough energy
to even work.
5. What’s the typical read range for RFID devices?
The majority of RFID transponders have a read range of
less than 3 feet. Some applications, limit the read
range to around
6 to 8 inches. Some newer technologies (UHF systems)
do have a longer read range that can be 20 to 25 feet,
systems are intended for pallets and shipping crates.
Read range depends
on many factors, but the size of the transponder’s antenna,
the size of the reader’s antenna and its output
power are the main ones. With battery-less transponders,
range and small size are mutually exclusive.
6. Are there any broadcast power restrictions set forth
by governmental regulations?
Yes, the FCC in the US and other governing bodies worldwide
restrict the output power of RFID systems. It is illegal
to exceed these limits, and in most countries it is
a condition of sale that the equipment meets these
addition, the frequencies themselves at which RFID
7. What are the advantages of using RFID in retail
and supply chain applications?
Retail establishments must contend with a wide variety
of issues and problems when it comes to managing inventory
chain. In-store, RFID can provide more accurate accountability
in the supply chain, better management of in-store
inventory and better demand planning. The time required
labor-intensive activities in the store, such as taking
inventory, can be significantly
reduced, even while dramatically increasing the reliability
and accuracy of the data. Companies already employing
RFID in their supply chain are seeing excellent benefits
a reduction in inventory costs.
8. How can consumers benefit from companies using RFID?
Systems such as Exxon/Mobil's Speedpass allow people
on the move fast and easy transactions. Automobiles
from theft by automakers' RFID anti-theft devices.
already are using RFID to provide detailed information
to valued customers on items in their stores, allowing
to be more
informed about the items they are purchasing. Since
RFID reduces the cost of managing inventory, consumers
the resulting lower prices. Also, shoppers will be
able to buy what they want, when they want it, since
be able to stock their store shelves more efficiently,
thus preventing out-of-stock situations. RFID could
reduce the counterfeiting of products, including life-saving
Additionally, it could aid in the recall of products,
so companies and consumers will have total confidence
all tainted products
have been withdrawn from circulation. Recovery of stolen
items would also benefit consumers by enabling the
police to identify
a TV that was stolen from a particular home.
9. Is it true that there are safeguards in place
that protect from "eavesdropping" or intercepting
data that is private?
Efforts are being made to protect consumer privacy
by securing information at all levels of data exchange.
systems form the foundation of this security, leaving
RFID to be deployed with similar degrees of security.
difference between RFID and say magnetic stripe technology
(as is used
on bank cards) is operability over the air. The risk
of eavesdropping or intercepting transmitted data is
recognized, as is
the risk of someone using a concealed reader. Both
these risks are greatly reduced through the design
over-the-air protocols and data encryption methods.
This protocol requires the tag to be within range of
the reader and
the eavesdropper. In addition, the reader changes frequency
rapidly and the eavesdropping reader must follow the
main reader exactly. This is very difficult since the
is random. Then there is the data encryption algorithm
codes that must be cracked in order to use the data.
A well designed
system will protect consumers by implementing the proper
protocol to achieve a level of security comparable
and even beyond more
10. Can RFID Tags be duplicated?
Yes it is possible, but very unlikely. The technological
hurdle is intentionally very high, making it impractical
all cases. Counterfeiting of tags is also detectable
by the systems used to read tags and verify authenticity
a variety of validation procedures. One such validation
is to check for records of copies having been previously
More elaborate schemes involve secure challenge and
response protocols involving secret numbers used
11. What are RFID manufacturers within AIM doing
in order to clarify the privacy issues?
Education about the capabilities and the limitations
of the technology is of the utmost importance to
AIM and its
companies. AIM is committed to providing information
that will clarify some of the statements and myths
by sources not familiar with RFID technology. As
with any new technology, people must become comfortable
the many benefits of the technology for consumers.
It therefore is important to ensure that consumers
the technology so that a good understanding of the
of RFID and how it differs from the theoretical use.
possible is a far cry from what is practical in the
use of RFID.
12. Are AIM and its member companies involved in
any efforts to establish privacy standards and governmental
Yes. AIM and its members support the establishment
of regulations surrounding the use of data that is
by RFID. The AIM RFID Privacy Work Group is focusing
solely on this issue.
13. What mechanisms can be used to allow consumers
in” or “opt out”?
RFID manufacturers can build in a "kill" mechanism
that would permanently disable the tag at the check-out
counter should the consumer choose to do so. As the adoption
technology moves forward it will be important to
have these things standardized. In current loyalty programs,
that opt in enjoy benefits, while those who choose
not to participate do not enjoy the benefits. Today, most
loyalty programs use
bar codes, which most consumers are comfortable with.
The important point is that the consumer has a choice whether
to join or
14. Can RFID tags be read by satellites in orbit?
No. That is not practical nor possible based on the
short read ranges and the huge amount of power
that would be
required to broadcast from a satellite in order
to pick up information
on an RFID tag.
15. Is RFID a true threat to consumer privacy?
AIM is an advocate for responsible use of the RFID
technology. AIM believes that RFID presents no
more of a threat to
individual privacy than the use of cell phones,
toll tags, credit cards,
the use of ATM machines, and access control badges.
All of these examples allow consumer conveniences
16. Can other retailers read RFID tags on your
clothing as you enter or exit a store?
Since there are no current applications of this
nature in operation, the answer is "no." In
the future, retailers that use RFID will build
in safeguards to prevent this, not only
for the protection of the consumer's privacy,
but for the protection of the retailer. Even
if a retailer was able to capture another
retailer's data from an RFID tag, the data would
be useless because of encryption and other security
would build in to protect consumer privacy and
the retailer's data.
17. Can or will governments implement an RFID
tracking system to know where each citizen
is at any time?
The infrastructure costs for a government entity
to track all citizens would be astronomical,
not to mention
tremendously large data base that would be
generated as people pass from
point to point. The practicality of such
an application is well beyond any government's
afford the infrastructure
and data management issues, let alone the
thought of consumers allowing this type of tracking
to take place.
court subpoena is required to use private
information such as cell phone records and credit card
purchases. This information
is strictly for use in criminal activities
investigations. The data generated from the
use of RFID should
be private and proprietary and include the
are currently in place.
18. Are there any health concerns/dangers
caused by proximity to or wearing clothing
Passive RFID tags do not actually radiate
RF energy, but simply reflects it. It
add to any
RF energy already
ChainLink Research, Inc.