Ethics Of Rfid In The Consumer Industry

2460 words - 10 pages

Ethics of RFID in the Consumer Industry


RFID is a technology, some say, which will be to the barcode as the Internet is to the telephone. RFID is short for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID is a combination of many tags to few readers that communicate with each other to determine a part or person’s whereabouts in a supply chain or surrounding area. RFID tags, like bar codes, share the central purpose of representing a data chunk. The RFID tag does not actually do anything (i.e. calculations, manual counting, etc.); rather it just transmits the data that is stored within it upon request.

RFID tags are very small (and getting smaller as technology advances) devices that consist of an integrated circuit (IC) and an antenna capable of transmitting unique information to RF transmitters or readers [1,9]. The cost of simple RFID tags should drop to $0.05/tag threshold – the price point most users are aiming for as RFID develops into a ubiquitous technology for widespread adoption. Tag size will soon be reduced to 0.4mm x 0.4mm, and thinner than a sheet of paper [1].

The most common tags today are developed by EPC Global (Electronic Product Code, formerly AutoID Center). These tags will be described later. These tags are a total of 96 bits and have the following information stored on them:

·Manufacturer (EPC Manager)

·Product (Object) Class (SKU)

·Individual identity (serial number)

Batteries do not power most RFID tags; these are identified as passive tags. These passive tags are dormant until they receive a signal activated by the reader [8]. In contrast, active tags have a power source, are not as common and have a larger footprint, but can be read from much longer distances [9]. RFID is becoming more pervasive because the information it provides may enable companies and customers to do so much more than current technologies.

Signals of RFID tags and reader vary. This asymmetrical channel strength between the two causes problems. Tag-to-reader follows a forward channel and reader-to-tag follows a reverse channel. Since passive tags receive power via the forward channel, it is much stronger than the backward channel. As a result the forward channel may be monitored from a much greater distance than the backward channel – sometimes up to 100 meters [9]. This channel strength could lead to eavesdropping and will be discussed in later.

RFID tags have a myriad of advantages over barcode tags. They can be read without a line-of-sight; they do not have to be physically visible to be scanned by readers. The readers can read through basic obstructions such as cardboard boxes and wooden pallets. Tags can also be read hundreds per second from several meters [6].

RFID technology is not new; it has been around for many decades. Examples include badging systems for companies, toll roads and bridges and more recently used for credit card payment at gas stations. More recently, the European Central Bank has...

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