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Texas Instruments RFID Products- Series 2000 LF Micro RFID Evaluation Kit

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Low Frequency Micro RFID Eval Kit Buy Now!


RI-K3A-001A The easy-to-use plug & play Low Frequency Midrange Reader Evaluation Kit gives you the opportunity to explore the capabilities of Texas Instruments 134.2 kHz Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology TIRIS . The core of this LF Evaluation Kit is the CE and FCC approved Series 2000 Micro Reader which is mounted on an Interface Board combined with an antenna. Various transponder samples and a demonstration software that runs on your desktop computer allow you to experiment with all the features of the RFID system. RFID creates an automatic way to collect information about a product, place, time or transaction quickly, easily and without human error. It provides a contactless data link, without need for line of sight or concerns about harsh or dirty environments that restrict other auto ID technologies such as bar codes. RFID has been applied in hundreds of applications in dozens of key industries. Examples include vehicle and personnel access control, automotive anti-theft systems, product and asset tracking, animal identification, supply chain automation, waste management Contents:

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S2000 Micro Reader RI-STU-MRD1 mounted on an Interface Board with: - RS232 IF Port - Power Connector - Antenna Connector 80mm Disk Antenna Set of R/O, R/W, M/P Transponders in various packages

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Texas Instruments RFID Products- Series 2000 LF Micro RFID Evaluation Kit

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PC Interface Cable CD with User Documentation and Demo Software Getting Started Guide 9V Power Supply Input 100V240V, 1.5A with various main power connectors for international use

Not sure of which Evaluation Kit to buy? Click here for a comparison chart to review some of the features

Literature
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Digital Tracking Information System using micro RFID

| HITACHI HOME | SDL HOME | UP |

Digital Tracking Information System using micro RFID

http://www.sdl.hitachi.co.jp/english/security/data/rd200219.htm (1 of 2)7/31/2003 2:18:02 AM

Digital Tracking Information System using micro RFID

We develop the physical objects centric information system by using micro RFID which can be watermarked into paper. Tracking of any kind of commodities, from their manufacturing to the scrapping, makes it easy to control their quality, security and cost. RFID : Radio Frequency Identification ID : Identification ROM : Read Only Memory All other trademarks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners. "-chip"is the trademark of HITACHI Ltd. In Japan and other countries.

All Rights Reserved,Copyright (C) 1998,2002,Hitachi, Ltd. www-info@sdl.hitachi.co.jp

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<nettime> Could we be tracked by micro RFID tags? (fwd)

Heiko Recktenwald on Sat, 18 Jan 2003 15:05:33 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index] <nettime> Could we be tracked by micro RFID tags? (fwd)
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To: nettime-l@bbs.thing.net Subject: <nettime> Could we be tracked by micro RFID tags? (fwd) From: Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106@IBM.rhrz.uni-bonn.de> Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 19:25:52 +0100 (CET) Reply-to: Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106@IBM.rhrz.uni-bonn.de>

Well, it seems privacy is over. Or do we not have to care since identity and what we wear are different? Voila:

---------- Forwarded message ---------RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages By Declan McCullagh January 13, 2003, 6:26 AM PT Could we be constantly tracked through our clothes, shoes or even our cash in the future? I'm not talking about having a microchip surgically implanted beneath your skin, which is what Applied Digital Systems of Palm Beach, Fla., would like to do. Nor am I talking about John Poindexter's creepy Total Information Awareness spy-veillance system, which I wrote about last week. Instead, in the future, we could be tracked because we'll be wearing, eating and carrying objects that are carefully designed to do so. The generic name for this technology is RFID, which stands for
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<nettime> Could we be tracked by micro RFID tags? (fwd)

radio frequency identification. RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Most RFID tags have no batteries: They use the power from the initial radio signal to transmit their response. You should become familiar with RFID technology because you'll be hearing much more about it soon. Retailers adore the concept, and CNET News.com's own Alorie Gilbert wrote last week about how Wal-Mart and the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install "smart shelves" with networked RFID readers. In what will become the largest test of the technology, consumer goods giant Gillette recently said it would purchase 500 million RFID tags from Alien Technology of Morgan Hill, Calif. Alien Technology won't reveal how it charges for each tag, but industry estimates hover around 25 cents. The company does predict that in quantities of 1 billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents a tag. It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags, which typically include a 64-bit unique identifier yielding about 18 thousand trillion possible values. KSW-Microtec, a German company, has invented washable RFID tags designed to be sewn into clothing. And according to EE Times, the European central bank is considering embedding RFID tags into banknotes by 2005. [... remainder snipped and available at http://news.com.com/2010-1069-980325.html ...]

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RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages


By Declan McCullagh January 13, 2003, 6:26 AM PT Could we be constantly tracked through our clothes, shoes or even our cash in the future? I'm not talking about having a microchip surgically implanted beneath your skin, which is what Applied Digital Systems of Palm Beach, Fla., would like to do. Nor am I talking about John Poindexter's creepy Total Information Awareness spy-veillance system, which I wrote about last week. Instead, in the future, we could be tracked because we'll be wearing, eating and carrying objects that are carefully designed to do so. The generic name for this technology is RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification. RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Most RFID tags have no batteries: They use the power from the initial radio signal to transmit their response. You should become familiar with RFID technology because you'll be hearing much more about it soon. Retailers adore the concept, and CNET News.com's own Alorie Gilbert wrote last week about how Wal-Mart and the U.K.based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install "smart shelves" with networked RFID readers. In what will become the largest test of the technology, consumer goods giant Gillette recently said it would purchase 500 million RFID tags from Alien Technology of Morgan Hill, Calif. Alien Technology won't reveal how it charges for each tag, but industry estimates hover around 25 cents. The company does predict that in quantities of 1 billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents a tag. It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags, which typically include a 64-bit unique identifier yielding about 18 thousand trillion possible values. KSW-Microtec, a German company, has invented washable RFID tags designed to be sewn into clothing. And according to EE Times, the European central bank is considering embedding RFID tags into banknotes by 2005. That raises the disquieting possibility of being tracked though our personal possessions. Imagine: The Gap links your sweater's RFID tag with the credit card you used to buy it and recognizes you by name when you return. Grocery stores flash ads on wall-sized screens based on your spending patterns, just like in "Minority Report." Police gain a trendy method of constant, cradle-to-grave surveillance. You can imagine nightmare legal scenarios that don't involve the cops. Future divorce cases could involve one party seeking a subpoena for RFID logs--to prove that a spouse was in a certain location at a certain time. Future burglars could canvass alleys with RFID detectors, looking for RFID tags on discarded packaging that indicates expensive electronic gear is nearby. In all of these scenarios, the ability to remain anonymous is eroded.
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RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages | CNET News.com

It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags.

Don't get me wrong. RFID tags are, on the whole, a useful development and a compelling technology. They permit retailers to slim inventory levels and reduce theft, which one industry group estimates at $50 billion a year. With RFID tags providing economic efficiencies for businesses, consumers likely will end up with more choices and lower prices. Besides, wouldn't it be handy to grab a few items from store shelves and simply walk out, with the purchase automatically debited from your (hopefully secure) RFID'd credit card?

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The privacy threat comes when RFID tags remain active once you leave a store. That's the scenario that should raise alarms--and currently the RFID industry seems to be giving mixed signals about whether the tags will be disabled or left enabled by default. In an interview with News.com's Gilbert last week, Gillette Vice President Dick Cantwell said that its RFID tags would be disabled at the cash register only if the consumer chooses to "opt out" and asks for the tags to be turned off. "The protocol for the tag is that it has built in opt-out function for the retailer, manufacturer, consumer," Cantwell said. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, says that's not the case. When asked if Wal-Mart will disable the RFID tags at checkout, company spokesman Bill Wertz told Gilbert: "My understanding is that we will." Cantwell asserts that there's no reason to fret. "At this stage of the game, the tag is no good outside the store," he said. "At this point in time, the tag is useless beyond the store shelf. There is no value and no harm in the tag outside the distribution channel. There is no way it can be read or that (the) data would be at all meaningful to anyone." That's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't address what might happen if RFID tags and readers become widespread. If the tags stay active after they leave the store, the biggest privacy worries depend on the range of the RFID readers. There's a big difference between tags that can be read from an inch away compared to dozens or hundreds of feet away. For its part, Alien Technology says its RFID tags can be read up to 15 feet away. "When we talk about the range of these tags being 3 to 5 meters, that's a range in free space," said Tom Pounds, a company vice president. "That's optimally oriented in front of a reader in free space. In fact if you put a tag up against your body or on a metal Rolex watch in free space, the read range drops to zero."

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The privacy threat comes when RFID tags remain active once you leave a store.

But what about a more powerful RFID reader, created by criminals or police who don't mind violating FCC regulations? Eric Blossom, a veteran radio engineer, said it would not be difficult to build a beefier transmitter and a more sensitive receiver that would make the range far greater. "I don't see any problem building a sensitive receiver," Blossom said. "It's well-known technology, particularly if it's a specialty item where you're willing to spend five times as much." Privacy worries also depend on the size of the tags. Matrics of Columbia, Md., said it has claimed the record for the smallest RFID tag, a flat square measuring 550 microns a side with an antenna that varies between half an inch long to four inches by four inches, depending on the application. Without an antenna, the RFID tag is about the size of a flake of pepper. Matrics CEO Piyush Sodha said the RFID industry is still in a state of experimentation. "All of the customers are participating in a phase of extensive field trials," Sodha said. "Then adoption and use in true business practices will happen...Those pilots are only going to start early this year." To the credit of the people in the nascent RFID industry, these trials are allowing them to think through the privacy concerns. An MIT-affiliated standards group called the Auto-ID Center said in an e-mailed statement to News.com that they have "designed a kill feature to be built into every (RFID) tag. If consumers are concerned, the tags can be easily destroyed with an inexpensive reader. How this will be executed i.e. in the home or at point of sale is still being defined, and will be tested in the third phase of the field test." If you care about privacy, now's your chance to let the industry know how you feel. (And, no, I'm not calling for new laws or regulations.) Tell them that RFID tags are perfectly acceptable inside stores to track pallets and crates, but that if retailers wish to use them on consumer goods, they should follow four voluntary guidelines. First, consumers should be notified--a notice on a checkout receipt would work--when RFID tags are present in

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RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages | CNET News.com

what they're buying. Second, RFID tags should be disabled by default at the checkout counter. Third, RFID tags should be placed on the product's packaging instead of on the product when possible. Fourth, RFID tags should be readily visible and easily removable. Given RFID's potential for tracking your every move, is that too much to ask?

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biography Declan McCullagh is the Washington correspondent for CNET News.com, chronicling the ever-busier intersection between technology and politics. Before that, he worked for several years as Washington bureau chief for Wired News. He has also worked as a reporter for The Netly News, Time magazine and HotWired.

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George Orwell, here we come


By Declan McCullagh January 6, 2003, 10:58 AM PT WASHINGTON--The biggest problem with criticism of Adm. John Poindexter's massive spy proposal is not in the argument over the system being so darn creepy. Of course it's creepy. This new federal agency deliberately chose the motto "knowledge is power," crafted a logo certain to inspire conspiracy theories, and is itching to assemble a detailed computerized dossier on every American. And that a figure such as Poindexter--disgraced in the Iran-Contra scandal and with a database addiction dating back to at least 1987--is running the show is a detail worthy of a Jonathan Swift satire. No, the biggest problem with the criticism of the Total Information Awareness system is that it's too shortsighted. It's focused on what the Poindexters of the world can do with current database and information-mining technology. That includes weaving together strands of data from various sources--such as travel, credit card, bank, electronic toll and driver's license databases--with the stated purpose of identifying terrorists before they strike. But what could Poindexter and the Bush administration devise in five or 10 years, if they had the money, the power and the will? That's the real question, and therein lies the true threat. Even if all of our current elected representatives, appointed officials and unappointed bureaucrats are entirely trustworthy--and that's a pretty big assumption--what could a corrupt FBI, Secret Service or Homeland Security police force do with advanced technology by the end of the decade? What if there was another terrorist attack that prompted Congress to delete whatever remaining privacy laws shield Americans from surveillance? For a hint at what the future might bring, it's worth reviewing some of the projects already under way at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is the parent agency for Poindexter's Information Awareness Office. Combine that information with the technology trends toward smaller sensors, cheaper hardware and ubiquitous wireless networks, and the possibilities are immensely disquieting. We could face the emergence of unblinking electronic eyes that record where we are and what we do, whenever we interact. Imagine a world where every street corner is dotted with disposable microcameras, equipped with facerecognition software that identifies pedestrians and constantly updates their individual files with up-to-the-minute location information. (Wearing masks won't help: Many states already have antimask laws, and the rest would follow suit if masks became sufficiently popular.) The microcameras are linked through a network modeled on existing 802.11 wireless technology. The wireless mesh also includes cameras devoted to spotting and recording license plates and a third type that identifies people by the way they walk. It's not that far from reality. Poindexter's office has an entire project area called Human ID at a Distance that's spending millions on researching biometric technologies, including face recognition and "gait performance" detection. Facecams already are in use in airports, city centers and casinos. And license plate recognition, by comparison, is a snap.
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George Orwell, here we come | CNET News.com

And what of the spybots' larger cousins, capable of hovering higher and seeing more for a longer duration? Last week The Washington Post reported that the federal government may permit unmanned aircraft to fly above the United States. "I believe that the potential applications for this technology in the area of homeland defense are quite compelling," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, who added that the drones could be used by domestic police agencies. Location tracking GPS devices that record a vehicle's position and transmit it to police are an exciting growth area for the eavesdrop establishment. Jim Bell, an Internet essayist convicted of stalking federal agents, said before his arrest that he was sure the federal agencies were tailing him electronically. During Bell's trial, it emerged that he was right: The police arm of the IRS was tracking him on their laptops with a legally implanted GPS bug inside Bell's Nissan Maxima. Last week, The Associated Press reported that an Oregon state task force wants a law requiring all cars to sport GPS receivers and recorders. The stated purpose: To measure how far you drive and calculate how much you owe in road taxes. The Nov. 15, 2002 report from the task force envisions some privacy protections--but those could be eliminated if homeland security worries become more acute, possibly leaving all Oregonians tracked whenever they're on the road. Criminals already may be finding less desirable uses for GPS trackers. Last week, the Smoking Gun Web archive of documents owned by Court TV posted a criminal complaint against a 42-year-old Wisconsin man accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend using a GPS bug hidden in her car. "We continue to see problems with stalkers (using databases)," says Peter Wayner, author of Translucent Databases. "I think there are many more sleazeballs who will use this stuff than there are cops who will use it to catch people. It's a lot easier to abuse this technology than to use it successfully." Then there's Applied Digital Systems (ADS) of Palm Beach, Fla., which received FDA approval last fall for a microchip to be implanted in humans for tracking and identification purposes. (Company spokesman Matthew Cossolotto told me in June 2001 that ADS had no such plans. "We are not now developing, nor do we have any plans to develop, anything other than an external, wearable device," he said in an e-mail message.) It's difficult to imagine a more ruthlessly effective way to track every American. I doubt it's likely, but it's possible to imagine a future where "getting chipped" starts as a way to speed your way through lines at ATMs and airports--and ends up being mandatory.

Poindexter's office has an entire project area called Human ID at a Distance that's spending millions on researching biometric technologies, including face recognition and "gait performance" detection.

Or how about locations out of the range of this fixed surveillance mesh? In 1998, DARPA began funding a project to create spybots that can fly day and night and that use infrared and video sensors. These spybots, being designed by Lockheed Martin and code-named MicroStar, will have a six-inch wingspan, weigh only 86 grams and cost about $10,000-an affordable price point for surveilling Americans from above.

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Some of your congressional representatives may soon be asked why there has never been even one hearing investigating DARPA, Poindexter and his Total Information Awareness plans.

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There's some precedent. In October, police in one Colorado county started pressuring businesses to require fingerprints when customers make purchases with checks or credit cards. Police in Arlington, Texas, are asking businesses to participate in a similar program. Things get stranger still. The Electronic Privacy Information Center used the Freedom of Information Act in August 2002 to obtain government documents that talked about reading air travelers' minds and identifying suspicious thoughts. The NASA briefing materials referred to "non-invasive neuro-electric sensors" to be used in aviation security. In a bizarre press release, NASA claimed it has not approved any research in the area of "mind reading" and that "because of the sensitivity of such research," the agency will seek independent review of future projects. Yikes. There are some bright areas in this generally dismal outlook. Avi Rubin, an associate professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, predicts growing interest in antisurveillance measures. "I expect there will be a whole industry popping up in counter-surveillance--at least, I hope," Rubin said. "Nowadays, it's not like

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George Orwell, here we come | CNET News.com

someone drops a camera and comes back and retrieves the data. You attack the transmission." Short of fleeing to the wilderness or living our lives entirely online, our only option is to fight the Poindexterization of modern life before it becomes too late. Congress returns this week. Some of your congressional representatives may soon be asked why there has never been even one hearing investigating DARPA, Poindexter and his Total Information Awareness plans.

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biography Declan McCullagh is the Washington correspondent for CNET News.com, chronicling the ever-busier intersection between technology and politics. Before that, he worked for several years as Washington bureau chief for Wired News. He has also worked as a reporter for The Netly News, Time magazine and HotWired.

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RFID Journal

Radio Frequency Identification for Business


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July 31, 2003

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The Coming RFID Skills Crunch Suppliers are scrambling to figure out how to tag pallets and cases for retailers. But where will companies find qualified experts to install RFID systems? Some experts are predicting an expensive war for talent.

TOP NEWS Geest Embraces RFID Compliance The Geest Group, which supplies produce to Marks & Spencer, is looking to deploy RFID for its own benefit.

Giant Eagle to Trial RFID WMS One of the largest U.S. grocery chains has chosen new supply chain software with an eye to adopting RFID.

Vendor Touts RFID Ready Program SmartCode has launched a program aimed at retailers, manufacturers and suppliers looking to deploy low-cost RFID systems.

Playboy Uses RFID to Track Tapes The cable TV station will save time and money by knowing where master tapes are at all times.

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RFID Journal - Geest Embraces RFID Compliance

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Geest Embraces RFID Compliance


The Geest Group, which supplies produce to Marks & Spencer, is looking to deploy RFID for its own benefit. July 31, 2003 As more retailers want to track their shipped goods with RFID tags, suppliers are being forced to invest in RFID equipment. But at least one supplier, the Geest Group of Companies in England, which provides fresh produce to Marks & Spencer, is realizing the added cost is also an opportunity. "Marks & Spencers decision meant a capital outlay for us with regard to buying the RFID equipment," says Jackie Brown, Geest's planning manager, "but we are certainly expecting to see benefits as well."

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A tagged Marks & Spencer plastic tray

Marks & Spencer, one of the UK's largest retailers, has been putting RFID tags on four million reusable trays used by more than 200 of its suppliers. The goal is to improve supply chain speed and reduce errors. The suppliers, therefore, have to invest in readers that can scan the tags and write data to the tags. The RFID tags replace a card file system. Suppliers used to write information about a shipmentthe tray's contents and how long the produce should be displayed in the storeon a card and place it in the tray along with the goods being shipped to M&S. The cards often got lost or damaged. The same data will now be written to RFID tags on the tray. Marks & Spencer decided to use 13.56 MHz read/ write tags from Texas Instruments. By installing readers at its loading docks, the retailer can automatically record having received the trays. Portal readers can simultaneously read all the data from tags on trays stacked on a dolly. Unlike the cards, RFID is not susceptible to in-transit damage, weather and other factors, ensuring the data stays with the contents until the tag is overwritten. Systems can be set up to scan tags and match the shipment to an M&S order. That can mean significant savings for Geest. At present, M&S charges suppliers 100 (US$162) a week for each depot that ships the wrong goods to the retailer ordered. Since the goods are perishable and can't be sent to another supplier, Geest loses the value of the products and the profits on the goods, Brown says.

Labor Pains Competition for people who can deploy RFID systems will be intense. FULL STORY

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RFID Journal - Geest Embraces RFID Compliance

The Geest Group of Companies comprises Bourne Stir Fry, Geest QV, Caledonian Produce, Tilmanstone Salads, Geest Prepared Foods, World Wide Fruit and English Village Salads. Each of these companies is deploying RFID in its distribution center. The implementations should be completed by the second quarter of 2004. Each individual company within the group will choose the equipment that best fits into existing warehouse systems and processes. The design and readers of each companys RFID system will be provided by Intellident, based in Manchester. In one of its companies distribution centers, Geest deployed Intellident portal readers, which can read and write to multiple RFID tags simultaneously. Trays, which are stacked nine high on dollies, pass through the portal at the loading dock. "There are huge benefits in the speed that we can load and dispatch our products," says Brown. "We can write and verify [the accuracy of an order with] 18 trays in a matter of seconds." At another Geest facility, where the production process makes it better to write data to the tags on the trays as the trays full of produce come off the production line, the company is using Intellidents Production LineWriter, which can be integrated into conveyor belts, roller beds, packing/filling lines and other pick and pack processes. Geest is also looking at ways that each of its companies could link its new RFID equipment into its planning system to give greater shop floor visibility. Further benefits could come from using RFID to understand where there is any downtime in current operations, says Brown. The systems don't affect the supplier's ability to deliver to other retailers, but if other retailers choose different RFID technology, that would man additional expenses for Geest. "I suppose there will be an issue of money if another retailer uses different software," says Brown, "as this would require more money spent on different kits." RFID Journal Home

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RFID Journal - Giant Eagle to Trial RFID WMS

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Giant Eagle to Trial RFID WMS


One of the largest U.S. grocery chains has chosen new supply chain software with an eye to adopting RFID. By Jonathan Collins

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July 30, 2003 - Pittsburgh, Pa.-based supermarket chain Giant Eagle is preparing an RFID pilot as part of an overhaul of its warehouse management system. The new system, which could include RFID if the test goes well, will support the company's 214 stores across four states. With estimated sales of more than $4 billion last year, Giant Eagle is one the largest food retailers in the United States. It is looking at RFID as a way to help streamline its distribution processes, reduce inventory levels and gain real-time visibility across its supply chain.

Eric Peters Labor Pains Competition for people who can deploy RFID systems will be intense. FULL STORY

As part of that effort, Giant Eagle will deploy warehouse management and trading partner management software from Manhattan Associates. It was the software vendor's recent addition of RFID capabilities that helped secure the contract, according to Eric Peters, Manhattan's senior VP of products and strategy. "Giant Eagle intends to use RFID in the future, and they wanted to make sure that their WMS solution is RFIDcapable for the needs of the grocery industry," he says. Giant Eagle has five distribution centers (DCs). The first site is scheduled to go live with Manhattan Associates warehouse management application in the second quarter of 2004. These centers, which range in size from 75,000 sq. ft. to more than one million sq. ft., serve as way stations for health, beauty and cosmetics products, meat, frozen foods, and dry or perishable goods (two facilities). Although interested in the potential of RFID, Giant Eagle is cautious about setting goals for the technology's deployment. It says its plans for an initial RFID pilot are still in their "infancy stage," so executives from the grocery chain are reluctant to discuss details of the planned deployment. Nevertheless, the company underlined that RFID was a key factor in its choice of supply chain execution systems. "We are very impressed with Manhattan Associates' early commitment to RFID, a key driver to achieving even greater levels of supply chain efficiency and productivity," Larry Baldauf, senior VP of distribution at Giant Eagle, said in a statement released by Manhattan Associates.

http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/518/1/1/ (1 of 2)7/31/2003 2:23:13 AM

RFID Journal - Giant Eagle to Trial RFID WMS

RFID promises to help Giant Eagle gain access to realtime supply chain information that will help it to better manage not just its DCs, but also its suppliers and the supply network as a whole. Manhattan's Peters says that Giant Eagle's cautious approach is common; customers are concerned that the Auto-ID Center has yet to create a specification for read/write Electronic Product Code tags. "We have many customers ready to run pilots but just waiting for that standard," says Peters. But Peters also says that Wal-Mart's June 11 announcement has pushed other Manhattan customers and some potential customers to start their own RFID pilots. "Some suppliers are starting to say, 'We don't need RFID pilots; we need to get into production right now,'" he says. RFID Journal Home

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RFID Journal - Passive, Active RFID Tags Linked

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Passive, Active RFID Tags Linked


Savi Technology is combining its long-range battery-powered RFID tags with passive tags from Matrics to create "nested visibility." July 24, 2003 - Savi Technology is collaborating with EPC tag producer Matrics to develop a new range of equipment that will enable companies to combine longand short-range RFID tags to create "nested visibility" within the supply chain. Savi, a Sunnyvale, Calif., provider of RFID devices and software for the management and security of supply chain, offers active, or battery-powered, tags for tracking shipping containers, trailers and other conveyances. Up to now, most of Savi's customers would scan bar codes on boxes and then write the bar code data to Savi's EchoPoint active tags. The partnership with Matrics will allow customers to use RFID tags, instead of bar codes. "The problem with tracking bar-coded items is that once they are inside the container you lose that visibility," says Stephen Lambright, VP of Marketing at Savi. "This collaboration extends visibility into the container through the active tag." Columbus, Md.-based Matrics produces and sells passive RFID tags based on the Auto-ID Center's Class 0 specification. By providing visibility down to the items within a box, Savi is providing a higher level of visibility, which it says will offer companies new capabilities. For example, if the security of a container is breached, the integrated RFID solution could tell in real-time that the container had been tampered with and which, if any, specific items are missing. In addition, using tags in place of bar codes should also bring savings in time and greater inventory accuracy, according to Lambright. "Replacing bar codes at the carton and palette level with passive tags lets us automate the entire process," he says. That functionality can also be used to track backwards to find out how individual items have been shipped and what happened to them. Let's say packages of meat are spoiled when they arrive at the store. The supplier could trace which cartons they were shipped in and what trucks they were on. That could help the supplier determine what happened, whether other meat was similarly affected and needs to be recalled and how to correct the problem.

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Labor Pains Competition for people who can deploy RFID systems will be intense. FULL STORY

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RFID Journal - Passive, Active RFID Tags Linked

The first product to come from the collaboration will be a handheld device that reads Matrics' passive EPC tags and writes the data to Savis 433 MHz active RFID tags and seals. The unit will be able to read passive tags from up to 33 feet (10 meters) away and active tags from up to 330 feet (100 meters). The handheld device should be available within a few months and separate fixed readers for dock doors, forklift trucks and conveyor systems should come to market by the end of the year. The readers will be produced by Matrics but marketed by both companies. They will support the Universal Data Appliance Protocol, which Savi developed for the military. UDAP enables any data collection device to be connected to the network. RFID Journal Home

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RFID Journal - V3 Teams with Alien, Xterprise

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V3 Teams with Alien, Xterprise


The three partners plan to offer mid-tier manufacturers and suppliers a low-cost way to meet Wal-Mart's RFID tagging deadline. July 22, 2003 - Logistics and warehouse management software vendor V3 Systems is teaming up with RFID equipment vendor Alien Technology and systems integrator Xterprise to jointly market and implement RFID technology for consumer goods manufacturers and suppliers. The three companies will begin offering software, RFID readers and systems integration sometime over the next few weeks. They plan to target mid-tier manufacturers and suppliers now faced with meeting Wal-Mart's deadline for putting RFID tags on pallets and cases by January 2005 (see WalMart Draws Line in the Sand).

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Xterprise's Frew Labor Pains Competition for people who can deploy RFID systems will be intense. FULL STORY

"Retail suppliers want RFID for compliance and they need technology that can be quickly implemented in a supportable package," says Paul Weiss, co-founder and CTO at Charlotte, NC-based V3 Systems. The vendor says it has about 60 customers, including third-party logistics companies, that have deployed its warehouse management system (WMS) in several hundred sites around the world. By bringing together WMS, RFID infrastructure and systems integration, the partners believe they can offer customers a lower-cost route to deploying RFID. "A lot of these mid-tier companies haven't upgraded their systems for years, and they don't have $5 million to spend on new systems," says Weiss. He expects average contracts, which will in many cases add RFID to existing systems, to cost $400,000 to $450,000 for the total package. That price would include software from V3 for up to 20 users, (including installation and training), 20 dock door readers, 10 handheld readers and 10 smart label printers. Xterprise will provide installation and consulting services for up-front business process requirements. RFID tags will be sold separately. Teaming to offer an integrated solution promises to take much of the complexity out of deploying RFID, according to Weiss. "Having one provider [Xterprise] responsible for the entire deployment minimizes the risk for the customer," he says. It should also mean quicker deployments. Weiss expects most installations

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RFID Journal - V3 Teams with Alien, Xterprise

to be completed in around 60 days. Many suppliers are clearly concerned about finding ways to meet Wal-Mart's compliance demands, but the new partners maintain that customers are also keen to see clear cost savings from any RFID investment. One key issue for many of them is in penalty charges, or charge-backs, made for unwanted or incorrect shipments to retailers. "It's a huge issue for suppliers," says Xterprise President Dean Frew. "The saving in charge-backs alone provide the payback for deploying RFID." Frew says the partners are working with one supplier with annual revenue of $56 million. The company estimates that it could save $1.1 million per year in charge-backs alone because of the greater accuracy of RFID-managed shipments. V3 says it's already in talks with potential customers and that the contracts for the first installations should be signed by the end of this quarter. The vendor did not have to develop any new software to link its systems to RFID data collection, because Xterprise will be responsible for developing and deploying middleware that will plug into V3 systems at each installation. According to Xterprise, the partnership came together because all three members of the partnership have already committed to working with Microsoft's .Net web services technology. RFID Journal Home

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Alien Technology Brings RFID Down to Earth


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ALIEN - Press Releases

Alien Announces Major Order for Low-cost RFID Tags Enters Supply Agreement to Provide 500 Million Units to The Gillette Company
MORGAN HILL, CA - - January 6, 2003. Alien Technology Corporation announced today that it has won an order from The Gillette Company (NYSE:G) for 500 million low-cost radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. This is the first major commercial order for products incorporating the revolutionary electronic product code (EPC) developed by researchers and member companies at the AutoID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The multi-million dollar order will support large-scale testing of EPC tag technology through Gillette's supply chain and in retail stores over the next several years. Chief Executive of Alien Technology, Stav Prodromou, said: "This is a landmark agreement. Alien's partnership with The Gillette Company not only signals that EPC tags will be in commercial production at an affordable price but also heralds the widespread adoption of next-generation Auto-ID technology across the consumer packaged goods industry." Alien Technology's patented manufacturing approach, Fluidic Self-Assembly, allows tiny integrated circuits to be cost-effectively handled and packaged into EPC tags in huge volumes. This enables Alien to achieve unprecedented low cost in making tags, and also to meet market demand expected to grow rapidly to tens of billions of units per year. Alien has developed the first EPC labels that operate according to the open specifications drafted at the Auto-ID Center (www.autoidcenter.org). Alien and several other vendors have developed and are offering for sale readers for this system. This worldwide standard for EPC labels will ensure interoperability of tags and readers wherever they are operating. A radio frequency "EPC label" affixed to a product or packaging can be used to track it through its life cycle, from raw material to manufacturing to retail. As the

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ALIEN - Press Releases

cost of these labels falls over the next several years, they are expected to revolutionize supply chain management by providing unprecedented visibility into inventory levels and product movement at the pallet, case, and shelf levels. Integrated solutions based around this technology will help businesses save billions of dollars in lost, stolen, or wasted products, and achieve significant efficiencies across their own operations and those of their trading partners. EPC labels much more than a radio "bar code" because they contain individual item serial numbers and other information such as manufacturing location, date codes, and other vital supply chain data. Manufacturers also expect dramatic reductions in counterfeit branded products due to the use of EPC. Leading the initiative at The Gillette Company, Vice President Dick Cantwell said: "We are proud to be at the forefront of the introduction of Auto-ID technology and we hope our leadership will help enable the wider consumer packaged goods industry to open a new era in its relationship with retail customers." Shipments of the first Alien EPC products to Gillette are expected to begin within the next few months. Other terms of the purchase agreements were not disclosed.

About Alien Technology


Alien Technology has developed, and holds exclusive patent rights to, a manufacturing technology that will dramatically reduce the production cost of many kinds of important electronic products. Fluidic Self-Assembly permits the high-speed assembly of tiny integrated circuits, called NanoBlock ICs, into rolls of plastic film. Savings are driven by both lower silicon costs and the efficiency inherent in the massively parallel assembly process. Headquartered in Morgan Hill, California, Alien is privately held. Significant investors include CMEA Ventures, Rho Management, Sevin-Rosen Funds, New Enterprise Associates, Adams Street Partners, Avery Dennison, and UPMKymmene. More information can be found at www.alientechnology.com.

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ALIEN - Press Releases

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Line56.com: Now's the Time for RFID

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Now's the Time for RFID


Ask Not What RFID Technology Can Do for You, But What You Can Do With RFID and an initial deployment strategy
by Prashant Bhatia and Greg Gilbert Tuesday, April 22, 2003

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The benefits of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in the supply chain are clear. RFID tags attached to products are uniquely identified for higher quality information and real-time tracking across the supply chain. They have the potential to revolutionize the efficiency, accuracy and security of the supply chain with dramatic effects on both top- and bottom-line business results. According to the National Retail Security Survey put out by the University of Florida, approximately $5.8 billion worth of inventory was lost in 2001 due to administrative errors alone. RFID tracking can help companies overcome this and many other obstacles. What is not apparent is the adoption rate of RFID technology, given potential technical and financial obstacles and the natural inertia that exists in most organizations. As with any new technology or dramatic change, many companies are taking a wait-and-see stance. A cautious approach is understandable, but at the same time problematic. To further the adoption of RFID and speed the benefits and ROI for all users, businesses need to take an active role in shaping standards, investigating opportunities and demonstrating the value of RFID implementations. First Things First - Implementation within the DC With a wide-range of possible RFID applications, one implementation approach is for businesses to focus on the RFID benefits within the distribution center (DC). The best way to execute this approach is to first determine the distribution processes where RFID would have the biggest impact, and implement the technology area by area. For example, businesses should consider testing the speed and convenience of RFID in the receiving area. Unlike bar codes, employees are not required to scan RFID tags. Instead, as goods enter the DC, readers automatically capture product and shipment information and upload that into the warehouse management system (WMS). Not only does this reduce the amount of labor needed to perform receiving, but it also increases inventory accuracy and tracking. Before taking advantage of these and many other benefits of RFID, companies first need to work with suppliers to resolve a few logistical issues. In order to enable this capability, companies first need to purchase and apply RFID tags to their products at the pallet, case or unit level (depending upon the type of product). The most effective way to do this is to utilize remote RFID printing technology, enabling suppliers to generate RFID tags and apply them to goods before they are shipped. These tags, in conjunction with advance ship notifications (ASNs) allow for scan-free receipt of goods and automatic tracking. Not only does this method help businesses improve receiving processes, but it also exposes suppliers to the benefits of RFID without significant investment. Positive supplier experience will ultimately help further the adoption of RFID. Once RFID has been brought into the DC, other areas such as picking and putaway can be addressed, helping to move increased volumes of goods in less time and with fewer people. The

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Line56.com: Now's the Time for RFID

improved information will mean better inventory control and product availability because product sales readily tie back to successful shelf replenishment and inventory management. With U.S. retailers losing approximately 3.8 percent of sales per year as a result of out-of-stock inventory (GMA/FMI, 2002), greater inventory control and increased product availability have the potential to have a major impact on companies' bottom lines. Using RFID to help synchronize and streamline the flow of inventory across the supply chain achieves quantifiable gains such as shipment visibility, inventory accuracy and labor productivity. One of the many benefits of RFID is that it can capture the entire DC content in a fraction of the time required by cycle or physical counts. RFID Beyond the Four Walls After seeing the value of RFID in a targeted fashion, companies can expand implementation of the technology to improve other areas of the supply chain. With RFID, trading partners can greatly improve global visibility and real-time collaboration and communication with external trading partners. With RFID, it is possible to have totally automated logistics tracking processes, where cartons can pass through the entire supply chain without having to be manually scanned. It will allow trading partners to gain better insight and accessibility to information at each stage of the supply chain, from the manufacturer's factory to the retailer's shelf. This improved collaboration makes replenishment of goods more streamlined, reducing overall costs and administration while increasing control. Another reason to invest in RFID is because it will eventually be able to provide critical information on customer demand in real time, without the delay and error potential associated with human intervention. For example, if a customer cancels an order or a product recall occurs, RFID will allow companies to locate the order, make adjustments and divert it immediately. The increased accuracy, visibility and real-time decision making that RFID enables translates into increased responsiveness and better forecasting and planning in the supply chain. Using realtime data instead of relying on historical trends for forecasting and planning will allow companies to be less conservative in their planning approach. Consequently, they will not have as many exceptions or as much safety stock. Emerging Trend Offers Promising Future With the increased volatility and demands of the supply chain, RFID has emerged at a critical time. Technological advances resulting in declining chip and reader prices and emerging electronic product code (ePC) standards are quickening the pace for RFID adoption. Additionally, we will increasingly see mandates from larger industry players to adopt RFID technology in order to remain competitive. Companies must contemplate how to capitalize on the myriad of potential opportunities RFID presents to move their business forward. The rippling effects of RFID will permeate across many industries enabling a new level of customer service and nimbleness in the supply chain. Instead of looking to the industry to dictate what RFID can do for them; leading businesses will gain recognition for what they have done with RFID. Prashant Bhatia is director of product management at supply chain execution specialist Manhattan Associates. Greg Gilbert is RFID strategist at Manhattan. They can be contacted respectively at pbhatia@manh.com and ggilbert@manh.com.

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InfoWorld: RFID is about to explode: January 31, 2003: By Ephraim Schwartz: Wireless Home :: About InfoWorld :: Advertise :: Subscribe :: Contact Us :: Awards :: Events

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RFID is about to explode


Ten-cent pieces of wireless equipment are being deployed by the billions By Ephraim Schwartz January 31, 2003

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To better understand the scope of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, let's take a look at The Gillette Company, based in Boston , and one of its distribution centers. The Chicago-based center is a 532,000-square-foot site with a 50,000 pallet capacity and approximately $60 million of inventory at any one time. Following a pilot program, Gillette announced its intention to buy 500,000,000 (that's not a typo not half a million but half a billion) RFID tags, at 10 cents a piece and to tag every pallet and every carton coming out of its distribution centers. By the way, the company selling the tags to Gillette is Alien Technology, in Morgan Hill, Calif. Imagine the benefits of tracking those pallets, and the cases on the pallets, from manufacturing to the point of sale. Gillette will be able to reduce losses from out-of-stock, stolen or lost products, and as the company understands the power of this tracking capability, it will increase revenues by leveraging inventory information into smarter marketing to the retailers. More about that later. There are rumors of an even bigger deal in the works, so big that the price of the tags will be cut in half. If anyone out there knows who might be cutting this deal, send me an e-mail. Each pallet will have two tags and will be wheeled past locations in the distribution center with antennas. The antennas send the information to the shipping dock where the pallet is checked and read again at the back door. There, the pallet is put on the trailer, bound for its final destination. It doesn't stop there. At the retailers, the Gillette products will be placed on "smart shelves" which are also tagged. The shelves relay to the stores inventory system what and how many products are sitting there; that data is viewable on any device, including the handheld the manager is carrying. The system also thanks the customer via electronic signage at the shelf and alerts the manager if inventory is getting low. Somehow, it also knows the difference between shoplifting and purchasing, but I wasn't able to get that detail.

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InfoWorld: RFID is about to explode: January 31, 2003: By Ephraim Schwartz: Wireless

RFID tags will allow a computer to identify any object, anywhere, automatically and here's the scary part will allow a product, in essence, to sense the real world on its own. At least that is the dream of Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, in Cambridge, Mass. , a Gillette partner in the project and a leading research organization for RFID. (Go to www.autoidcenter.org.) On a clip on the Center's Web site, Richard Cantwell, vice president of Gillette and a board member at the Center, said to a manufacturer that knowing where products are is "as valuable as knowing your bank balance." However, supply chain data is just part of the benefits of RFID tagging. John Jordan, principal in the office of the chief technologist at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, also in Cambridge , asked me to imagine a pharmaceutical company tagging all of its samples that it distributes to doctors. We don't want to call them customers; sounds unseemly doesn't it? When the pharmaceutical sales rep calls on the doctor, the rep can ask to scan the shelves where the samples are kept in order to take a reading on what was distributed, how much is left, and to see what wasn't given out to their customers er, patients. "Is there something you don't like about this product, doc?" Or, "I see you only have two boxes of such and such. Are you pleased? Do you want to order some?" From supply chain to powerful marketing tool, all thanks to a 10-cent piece of wireless technology. Not bad.

Ephraim Schwartz is editor at large at InfoWorld. Contact him at ephraim_schwartz@infoworld.com. More Ephraim Schwartz columns Join a discussion on Ephraim Schwartz's columns FREE Newsletter - Get Ephraim's column delivered weekly E-mail Address:

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USATODAY.com - Several consumer products to get 'tagged'

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Posted 1/27/2003 11:34 PM

Several consumer products to get 'tagged'


By Michelle Kessler, USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO By the end of the year, a host of consumer products will, for the first time, be sold with tiny computer chips known as RFID tags in them. The chips contain small bits of data, such as a product's serial number, which can be read by a scanner. The scanner sends the data to a database so stores and manufacturers can quickly track what is sold. The radio frequency identification tags could dramatically improve inventory processes, retail analysts say, thus reduce costs and maybe consumer prices. "Everybody's going to profit from these tags," says analyst Michael Liard of researcher Venture Development. But the technology, one of the most widely anticipated in years, also raises privacy concerns. The fear: Thieves will buy or make chip scanners and crack security controls. That means someone might be able to scan shoppers' bags and know what they bought. Companies are testing solutions, such as turning off tags once they leave stores. Testing tags:
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Gillette. In the next several weeks, it plans to attach chips to packages of razors sold in a Brockton, Mass., Wal-Mart and several British grocery stores. Chip scanners on the shelves will track supplies. When low, the scanners will alert store managers. Procter & Gamble. It recently tested the chips on bottles of Pantene shampoo and Bounty towels to help track warehouse inventory and reduce lost merchandise. Next, it will tag some unspecified products in a Broken Arrow, Okla., Wal-Mart. Prada. It has tagged clothing in a New York store since December 2001. As customers shop, scanner-wielding salespeople can quickly tell what other colors and sizes a garment comes in, and if there are similar styles. Prada removes the tags before items leave the store.

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Next month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto-ID research center, which designs the chip technology, is expected to announce a widescale RFID project, involving big partners such as Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Home Depot and Target. The center has not yet specified which products will be tested in which stores. RFID technology has been around since World War II. It's used to track shipping containers. It's found in gas station "speed passes" key chains drivers wave in front of the pump to charge a fill-up to credit cards. It also powers some highway toll systems, allowing drivers to bypass booths and pass an RFID-reading sensor instead.

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But until recently, the chips were too expensive to put on individual products. Gillette's order this month for 500 million chips was among the largest ever, allowing them to be mass-produced for about 15 cents each, says Mark Roberti, editor of the RFID Journal trade magazine.

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USATODAY.com - Several consumer products to get 'tagged'

Soon, they might be found in all kinds of products. Tiremakers Michelin (by mid-2004) and Goodyear (by 2005) plan to embed the chips in some new tires. They will tell where a tire was made.

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InformationWeek > Supply-Chain Management > Pinpoint Control > September 30, 2002

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Tiny chips may revolutionize all areas of supply-chain management
By David M. Ewalt
A breakthrough technology -- about the size of a grain of sugar and the cost of a piece of candy -- promises to revolutionize supply-chain management, letting companies track products from the early stages of manufacturing until they're plucked from store shelves, and every point in between. Radio-frequency identification tags incorporating tiny microchips are approaching a price point that could vault them from the realm of specialty applications into mainstream manufacturing, distribution, and retail environments. A Who's Who of consumer-goods companies and retailers, including Procter & Gamble, Target, Unilever, and Wal-Mart, are poised to use the devices.

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When applied to pallets, cases, or even individual items, RFID tags can give suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers unprecedented control over inventory, shipping, and other logistics. The real-time data generated by the tags as products move along a route could help businesses make faster decisions, increasing efficiency and productivity in many areas, including how invoices and payments are handled. For instance, when a loaded pallet enters a retailer's warehouse, the RFID tag's signal could trigger an electronic payment to the shipper, rendering invoices obsolete, says Simon Ellis, supply-chain futurist at Unilever.

The concept has been around for decades, but its application has been held back in part by the expense of the tags, which ranges from just under $1 to $20. Now the potential cost has dropped to about a nickel, as sponsors of the commercially funded Auto-ID Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have figured out ways to produce cheap chips in quantity based on developing standards. "You need volume," says Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto-ID Center. "If you produce them in the billions, it'll cost as little as 5 cents." Ashton unveiled one of the first of the low-cost tags, just manufactured by Alien Technology Corp., last week at InformationWeek's Fall Conference in Tucson, Ariz.

With businesses lining up behind the effort, large-scale production may not be far off. Since the Auto-ID Center was founded three years ago, membership has grown to 67. In addition to the four companies mentioned above, sponsors include Coca-Cola, the Department of Defense, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer. If Procter & Gamble fully embraced the concept, it alone could account for about 2 billion chips a year, according to a story to appear in the October issue of Optimize magazine, InformationWeek's sister publication.

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Large retailers such as Wal-Mart will create a cascade of demand for RFID tags and the hardware and software needed to use them if those companies push business partners to adopt the technology for improved supply-chain coordination. "If they deploy RFID and show good results, it will really open up the market," Frost and Sullivan analyst Deepak Shetty says.

Depending on the outcome of an upcoming test, Home Depot Inc. says it could eventually put RFID tags on all of the 50,000 products it sells. If that happens, the home-improvement chain envisions asking manufacturers and distributors to join the initiative, says VP of IS Gary Cochran. The pilot program entails putting RFID tags on special-order goods in Boston-area stores so they can be located easily when a customer comes for them, Cochran says.

Unilever is conducting a three-phase trial of RFID technology, based on the Auto-ID Center's developing standard, that involves testing the tags on pallets, cases of goods, and eventually individual items. Unilever also participated in a trial with grocer Safeway Inc., completed a few months ago in England. "I could very easily see us investing in some pallet-level applications late next year or early in 2004," Ellis says.

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What's needed for full-scale rollouts, in addition to the RFID tags, are scanners that work with the tags and services for businesses that need integration help, Ellis says. The Auto-ID Center is slated to publish a complete standard in the second half of next year. "If this technology is going to deliver the benefits, it's going to require a common approach, and that's not what we have today," Ellis says.

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Unilever is working with pallet rental company CHEP International to develop reusable shipping pallets with built-in RFID tags and with RedPrairie Corp. on applications for warehouse management that work with RFID tags. But there's more to do. Unilever hasn't yet tested how RFID data will be managed across its SAP applications or how new data sources will affect its databases. "It's still not entirely clear how the [whole] system is going to work," Ellis says.

Vendors also need to figure out how their systems will process the massive amounts of data potentially produced by RFID technology. "You're looking at very large amounts of transactions and data measured in the tens or hundreds of terabytes," says Jon Chorley, senior director of development for Oracle's inventory- and warehouse-management products. Oracle, SAP, and others are enhancing their apps to support RFID.

One potential benefit of the technology, the ability to track items after they're purchased, could make it easier for manufacturers to recall defective products or provide services. For instance, a "sprayable" RFID tag being developed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and due commercially in three to five years could be used by automakers to monitor parts on assembly lines and, later, to service those parts, says Fred Schramm, manager of high-risk research at Marshall. Yet such capabilities could trigger a backlash from consumers worried about having their movements tracked or intrusive profiling and marketing. Experts say the devices, which transmit signals short distances to RFID readers, can be turned off, so that shouldn't happen. Still, because of potential privacy concerns, Unilever isn't ready to use the tags on individual products. "We would have to have a much clearer idea of what consumers think," Ellis says.

And cost remains an issue for some. A 5-cent RFID tag "isn't cost effective for gum," says Jeff Martin, director of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.'s Global Center of Excellence. "Even at the box or pallet level, it's just not in our future right now," (see story, "New Wrigley Flavor: SAP"). To be practical for some retail applications, RFID tags need to drop to a penny or less, says Christian Knoll, VP for global supply-chain management with SAP.

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Others, however, aren't waiting. Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. is using RFID tags on 12,000 pieces of trucking equipment to control inventory in its freight yard, track shipments, and monitor employee productivity. The result: a one-year payback. "It saves clerical time and helps us manage yard time," says David Congdon, president and chief operating officer.

As the cost of RFID tags drops from dollars to pennies, more business-technology professionals will begin to get out the scratch pads to assess when and where to use the devices. "It's easy to get wrapped up in the cost of the chip," Unilever's Ellis says. "Ultimately, it's a function of what you save."

-- With John Foley, Robin Gareiss, Mary Hayes, and Cheryl Rosen

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02/06/2002 - Updated 05:22 PM ET

Alien's tiny cheap chips could open new worlds


MORGAN HILL, Calif. I'm at a company called Alien Technology. I'm thinking the board meetings must be interesting with, like, Mork from Ork, E.T. and David Bowie around the table. Outside is a farming community a good hour from the heart of Silicon Valley. Here in the lobby, I'm staring at a full-size replica of Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, which, as you might recall, starred Leslie Nielsen in 1956.
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q The reason I'm visiting this seemingly odd outfit q is that Arno Penzias, former head of Bell Labs q and now a venture capitalist, told me it's one of q the most important new companies he's seen. He's now on the board, perhaps fitting right in. This is a guy who has a Nobel Prize in physics. You have to figure he's smart. Looking at Robby, I'm not certain.

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There's one other reason for checking this out. Alien is raising huge amounts of venture capital. Yep. In this Godforsaken era, when it's harder to land venture money than to find a mosh pit in Amish country, Alien raised $55 million in August and is confident of raising even more in another round of financing this year. So there's got to be something here. And this is it: Alien seems like the missing key to a bunch of advances that technologists have been hoping to see. Those advances include thin plastic computer screens that can be rolled up, groceries that check themselves out and eyeglasses that can't be lost. If Alien is that key, it could unleash a torrent of innovation. Then the company will most definitely be important. Alien, a private company, has found a way to make tiny 1-cent computer chips and easily put them into things on a mass-production scale. That's a first. The process is based on work done 6 years ago by J. Stephen Smith, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. CEO Jeff Jacobsen, an industry veteran at 47, was hired in September 1998 to build a real company around Smith's work. Not long after, Penzias came to check it out, and despite seeing a lab that used such sophisticated equipment as a turkey baster, told his venture capital firm, New Enterprise Associates, to invest. Alien's process is as fantastic as everything else about the company. As I sit at a conference table here, Jacobson hands me a sealed test tube full of water and what looks like suspended silver glitter. The glitter is actually floating computer chips, each a few times the width of a human hair and shaped like a minuscule Ex-Lax tablet. The shape fits precisely into holes that can be stamped into sheets of plastic in any pattern.

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The plastic can be fed on rolls like a printing press through a bath containing the chips. The chips fall into place, filling every hole. Alien calls this Fluidic Self-Assembly, or FSA. The plastic rolls through a couple of other processes that seal the chips in and connect them to tiny wire leads. The sheet can then be cut into whatever is being made big flexible computer screens, or tiny displays that go on ATM cards to show you how much money you have in your account. FSA is a departure from current methods of embedding things with individual chips. One method requires high heat, which would melt plastic. That's why displays on computers and cell phones are glass. The glass can withstand the heat, but it's heavy, breakable and inflexible all liabilities. Another method picks up individual chips and glues them in place, but that's too slow and costly. Don't get me wrong Alien still has a lot to prove. It hasn't mass-produced anything yet. It's building its first factory. It's taking baby steps. "Our strategy is to start with something simple," Jacobson says. Right now, that's a numeric display built into the plastic of a smart card. The display shows the amount of money remaining on the card. Alien is developing the displays under a $40 million contract with France's Gemplus, the biggest smart card maker. Beyond that, the possibilities are huge. In displays alone, Jacobson's ideas include plastic screens that can be unrolled out of the side of a cell phone, and plastic computer screens that soldiers can roll up and carry into battle. Motorola, Presto Technologies, E Ink and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson have all talked about devices and applications that would work if only there were 1-cent, easily-embedded chips. In other words, if there were a company like Alien. Some of those applications would use radio frequency (RF) tags, which are cheap chips attached to tiny radio antennas. RF tags can send and receive little bits of information. Alien's FSA is a way to mass-produce RF tags possibly the best way to make super-cheap RF tags and put them into anything. The tags could be attached to all packaged goods, each tag encoded with the item and price. Then, if you walk out a grocery store's door with a full shopping cart, all the RF tags could send the store's computer a blip saying those items are being bought. That's it you're checked out. No having to stare at a teenager's multiple piercings while she operates the register. Penzias likes the eyeglasses example. Embed an RF tag in every pair of glasses. You lose your glasses, you go to a special Web site, which listens the world over for a little ping from your glasses' RF tag. The site shows that you left them on the bar at Thirsty's. The only alarming part is that you only vaguely remember even being at the bar at Thirsty's. There is no shortage of ideas flying Alien's way. Silicon Valley executives keep driving here to see what's up. Intel wanted to invest but was turned away. Philips and Dow Chemical are investors. "Japanese companies come in here all the time, and they start saying, 'We can do this and this and this,' " says Stan Drobac, a vice president. "We're running out of bandwidth to chase more things." For now, Alien just wants to get going on smart cards. Then, Jacobson says, it might move into plastic displays for cell phones and palmtop computers. After that, who knows? Jacobson at times seems barely able to contain his giddiness about Alien's good fortune. He's so confident, he's even willing to spend some of that rarified venture money on a full-size Terminator replica that can join Robby in the lobby. He's got
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his order in. When you've got a technology that seems momentous, you can be as weird as you want to be.

Kevin Maney writes a weekly column about technology. Send e-mail to Kevin at kmaney@usatoday.com.

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EE Times - Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005

Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005


By Junko Yoshida EE Times December 19, 2001 (3:03 p.m. ET) SAN MATEO, Calif. The European Central Bank is working with technology partners on a hush-hush project to embed radio frequency identification tags into the very fibers of euro bank notes by 2005, EE Times has learned. Intended to foil counterfeiters, the project is developing as Europe prepares for a massive changeover to the euro, and would create an instant mass market for RFID chips, which have long sought profitable application. The banking community and chip suppliers say the integration of an RFID antenna and chip on a bank note is technically possible, but no bank notes in the world today employ such a technology. Critics say it's unclear if the technology can be implemented at a cost that can justify the effort, and question whether it is robust enough to survive the rough-and-tumble life span of paper money. A spokesman for the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany confirmed the existence of a project, but was careful not to comment on its technologies. At least two European semiconductor makers contacted by EE Times, Philips Semiconductors and Infineon Technologies, acknowledged their awareness of the ECB project but said they are under strict nondisclosure agreements. Recent Articles EET Centralized wireless LAN interface proposed SoC vendor woos military markets TI to buy Radia to complete WLAN chip set offering Cypress phasing out PLD business Intel, MIPS, Qualcomm welcome to join MIPI Siemens to cut 2300 in mobile unit Mentor tool will team up on pcb layout DVCon sets 2004 dates, calls for papers Archives

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The euro will become "the most common currency in the world" at midnight on Jan. 1, when 12 nations embrace it, according to Ingo Susemihl, vice president and general manager of RFID group at Infineon. The ECB and criminal investigators in Europe are already on high alert, worried not only about counterfeiting of a currency most people haven't seen, but also of a possible increase in money laundering, given the euro's broad cross-border reach. The ECB said 14.5 billion bank notes are being produced, 10 billion of which will go into circulation at once in January, with 4.5 billion

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EE Times - Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005

being held in reserve to accommodate potential leaps in demand. Thwarting underworld popularity Although euro bank notes already include such security features as holograms, foil stripes, special threads, microprinting, special inks and watermarks, the ECB believes it must add further protection to keep the euro from becoming the currency of choice in the criminal underworld, where the U.S. dollar is now the world's most counterfeited currency. The ECB spokesman said his organization has contacted various central banks worldwide not just in Europe to discuss added security measures for the currency. In theory, an RFID tag's ability to read and write information to a bank note could make it very difficult, for example, for kidnappers to ask for "unmarked" bills. Further, a tag would give governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally "follow the money" in illegal transactions. "The RFID allows money to carry its own history," by recording information about where it has been, said Paul Saffo, director of Institute for the Future (Menlo Park, Calif.). The embedding of an RFID tag on a bank note is "a fundamental departure" from the conventional security measures applied to currency, Saffo said. "Most [currency] security today is based on a false premise that people would look at the money to see if it is counterfeit," he said. But "nobody does that. The RFID chip is an important advance because it no longer depends on humans" to spot funny money. RFID basics
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The basic technology building blocks for RFID on bank notes are similar to those required for today's smart labels or contactless cards. They require a contactless data link that can automatically collect information about a product, place, time or transaction. Smart labels produced by companies such as Philips Semiconductors, Infineon, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments are already used in such applications as smart airline luggage tags, library books and for supply chain management of various products. "Two minimum elements you need for RFID are a chip and an antenna," according to Gordon Kenneth Andrew Oswald, associate director at Arthur D. Little Inc., a technology consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass. When a bank note passes through reader equipment, the antenna on the note collects energy and converts it to electric energy to activates the chip, he said. The antenna then "provides a communication path between a chip [on the bank note] and the rest of the world," said Tres Wiley, emerging markets strategy manager for RFID Systems at TI. For its part, the chip "is a dedicated processor to handle protocols, to carry out data encoding to send and receive data and address memory" embedded on the chip. Although the industry is "well down the road with the smart label technology," Wiley said he was "a bit surprised to learn that someone goes to that extent to embed RFID into bank notes

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EE Times - Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005

to combat counterfeit money."


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A number of challenges must be overcome before RFID tags can be embedded on bills, said Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The most obvious one is the price," he said. Today's RFID tags cost between 20 cents to $1.00, and "that's not economic enough for most bills," Ashton said. "We've absolutely got to get the cost way down." The goal of the Auto ID Center is to find an application that requires billions of RFID chips to bring their cost as low as 5 cents, he added. While most chip companies with RFID expertise are keeping their plans for money applications close to their chest, Hitachi Ltd. announced plans last July for a chip designed for paper money that would pack RF circuitry and ROM in a 0.4-mm square circuit measuring 60 microns thick. Although the chip features no rewritable capability, Ryo Imura, chief executive of Hitachi's Mew Solutions venture, said at the time of announcement, "We'll consider them for the next generation [of] products." Hitachi's chip stores encrypted ID information in ROM during the manufacturing process, presumably to replace the serial number of each bank note. Even without writable memory, Hitachi's chip is said to be fairly costly. Hitachi declined to be interviewed for this article. While the size of the rewritable memory embedded on an RFID chip will determine the kinds of information it can store, it also affects the chip's cost. Affordable with bigger bills It is unclear whether the ECB will incorporate RFID chips into all euro bank notes or just on the larger bills. The EUR 200 and EUR 500 bank notes in particular equivalent to roughly $200 and $500 in value are expected to be popular in the "informal" economy. Embedding a 30 cents chip into a EUR 500 bill would make more sense than putting it into a European buck, several industry sources said. Manufacturing processes are also considered a major hurdle to embedding a low-cost antenna and chip onto bank notes. "The chip is already so small," MIT's Ashton said. "To connect the two ends of a coil an antenna at precisely the right place on a chip could present a major problem." A printing process is an option, Ashton said, but "you need a breakthrough in the high-volume manufacturing process." Such a technology does not exist today, he said. Size and thickness are key attributes of an RFID chip for paper currency, said Karsten Ottenberg, senior vice president and general manager of business unit identification at Philips Semiconductors. "For putting chips into documents, they need to be very small less than a square millimeter and thin such that they are not cracking under mechanical stress of the document. Thinning down to 50 micron and below is a key challenge." That would require advanced mechanical and chemical techniques, he said.

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EE Times - Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005

Bank notes present "an interesting future application for us," said Tom Pounds, vice president of RFID projects at Alien Technology, which holds the rights to a fabrication process that suspends tiny semiconductor devices in a liquid that's deposited over a substrate containing holes of corresponding shape. The devices settle on the substrate and self-align. Rather than working on the interconnection to an RF antenna one chip at a time, "we can do a massively parallel interconnection," Pounds said. Bank notes are not Alien's primary focus at present, he said.

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RFID Rising
Gillette deal a watershed, pilots paying off, no end in sight for application potential; endorsements not where you'd expect
by Jim Ericson, Line56 Thursday, February 13, 2003

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We have been watching for awhile, but it was just five months ago that we introduced our own readers to the topic of radio frequency identification, (RFID) passive and active semiconductor chips that could be embedded in products and read on the fly to help track goods in the supply chain, and reduce theft and counterfeiting. (Older readers might recall being fascinated 25 years ago by the barcodes and security devices RFID is just beginning to replace.) Now the game is afoot, and companies quick to the mark are looking pretty smart for it. We're mere months from the first standards release (driven by the folks at MIT, thank goodness) the stars are aligning, and companies are not waiting. The latest vision was last month's commitment by Gillette to buy 500 million RFID tags from privately held Alien Technology. Five hundred million is a lot of anything, but it's really the tip of the iceberg. "When we saw Alien and Gillette coming, we just looked at each other and said well, here comes the first seismic shift that takes this from being on peripheral vision to something on radar," says Lyle Ginsburg, managing partner of technology innovation at Accenture Technology Labs in Chicago. Pilots Aplenty

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Ginsburg is traveling frenetically these days, working with customer CEOs, niche technology vendors and supply chain software vendors, as well as the overseeing Auto-ID Center driven at MIT, now spread to a global effort. Almost everybody seems to want a pilot. In Gillette's case, Ginsburg thinks risk is minimal since the company is working through a single consortium and standard going forward driven by 80-some of the top companies in the world. The global 'punch' of this is not to be underestimated. "Now they're saying, 'here's the way we are going to do this so everybody please start building this way.'" That's not to say there's only one application for RFID being applied, or that it's all under tight wraps. The motives and goals behind the technology expand daily. Remember, Viagra was originally launched as a heart medication. Now it's beginning to look like RFID is shaping up as an aspirin tablet for e-business applications. Under headings like "ubiquitous commerce" and "silent commerce," Accenture streams demos of RFID applied to distribution; customer insights; worker safety (tagged hazardous materials in proximity); shrinkage; and counterfeiting. Separately, a little searching finds "RFID in action" in the public domain. Here are four random examples:
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Italian fashion designer Prada has a Manhattan store in which all items of clothing have been tagged with Texas Instruments RFID chips and KTP reader technology. Upon entering one of seven dressing booths built by industrial designer ideo,

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shoppers are presented with sizes and colors available, and alternate styles and complementary products via a video monitor. Preferences can be stored on a customer card, and sales associates are equipped with hand-held devices to locate products and display catwalk clips to customers.
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Scottish Courage Brewing has long been using RFID in a "keg-sharing" plan in the U.K. where 65 percent of beer is served in draft form. With a U.K. inventory of 10 million kegs and no deposit laws, shrinkage of the stock was a problem. RFID tagging, "100 percent accurate" in the words of program director Graham Miller, is used to track kegs at various points in the supply chain, reducing shrinkage to almost zero, reducing cycle times, improving delivery for outgoing and incoming stock and providing an audit trail for inventory. UK retailer Marks & Spencer is replacing barcodes with RFID chips and Intellident technology on 3.5 million reusable food trays, dollies and rolling cages carrying perishable food items. Last November, the company called this the largest RFID project in the world. Texas Instruments says the tags reduce the time to read a stack of multiple trays by 80 percent. Complete dollies of trays are read in five seconds of passing a scanner, and the project is now making its way to the retail floor. Malden Mills, the U.S. textile inventor and manufacturer of Polartec severe-weather fabric sold by outlets like L.L. Bean, Nike, (also used by the military) uses Escort Memory System RFID tags in the manufacturing process to mark the beginning and end of imperfections in fabric runs. Detectors on slitting machines sense and remove defective areas of material, minimizing waste at the point of the imperfection.

"Conventional wisdom says you start tagging high-volume things and work down, but there are many exceptions for people who are highly motivated for one reason or another," says AMR Research analyst Pete Abell. "For Prada, it's about image and marketing. At GAP Stores, they're interested in increasing sales and improving inventory management. Guess what, it works." Conventional wisdom also goes awry when evaluating the thinking that leads RFID applications. Geographical and cultural nuances often drive users and suppliers in discrete directions. In the U. K., for example, much of the impetus for RFID came via the 5.5 million pound "Chipping of Goods Initiative" initiated by the U.K. Home Office in December, 2002. Led by the Police Scientific Development Branch and road crimes unit, the goal was to reduce man-hours and prosecutorial costs for stolen items. For its part, Gillette will be in part tagging cases and packages of expensive razor blades that fly off the shelf, often illegally. They're also putting smart shelf readers in Wal-Mart and Tesco stores to manage inventory and track inventory movement. "Their biggest problem is shrinkage with those Mach III razors," Ginsburg says. "When I first joined the Auto-ID Center, I heard about this and went to Walgreens to see what it was all about, and there were no razors on the shelf." Either they're selling or they're stolen, he says, both important reasons to be tracking the goods. Who's Doing What Our own conventional wisdom leads us back to the supply chain and the confluence of familiar and unfamiliar names. Who is doing what? How are supply-chain execution software firms fitting in? While early security devices might have been applied by retailers, those companies see themselves in the tag reader business and aren't going to be buying and applying millions of tags for their stores. "Everyone assumes it's the manufacturers that will be tagging," Ginsburg says, though he thinks that's only partly true. For their part, manufacturers will be more interested in tracking large volumes, pallets and cases, at choke points like loading dock doors, he says. Generally, this starts deep in the supply chain and slowly works its way toward store shelves.

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A first step then is the tracking of all reusable containers, as Marks & Spencer has undertaken. Bins, pallets, raw materials vats, freight containers, cargo carriers and such are all useful and acceptable cost asset utilization projects that yield insights today. Getting back to cases and individual items, the packaging industry has taken the ball as the likely applicant for tagging. International Paper and Meade/Wesvaco are Auto-ID members, and Ginsburg says Asian packaging companies are aggressively looking at RFID packaging as a way to become that much more important to the Unilevers and Coca-Colas of the world. A perusal of the patent office will provide much evidence of activity in ink-based antennas and chipembedded packaging and tape. Supply chain execution software specialist Manhattan Associates sees a future of automated conveyors, where cases and items can be automatically routed at distribution centers (DCs) to their proper destination with an audit trail to boot. "A lot of customers are asking how to use our PkMS [warehouse management] system to do cross docking where nobody has to touch the box," says Tilman Estes, director of product development at Manhattan. "Others are just interested in reducing labor on inbound scanning." Manhattan is also connecting its infolink remote order tracking software with RFID systems. Infolink draws on ERP and warehouse management systems to provide visibility to inventory and orders in progress. Already printing UCC-compliant labels, the next step is to embed RFID chips in the labels as they are affixed to packages. In this case, Manhattan is working with printer hardware maker Zebra Technologies, whose printers can embed ultra-thin barcodes into packaging labels for execution against DC processes like receiving, replenishment, picking, packing and shipping. "It's just a natural progression," says Estes. Accenture is partnering with Manhattan Associates and building interfaces for other likely users, like SAP and Retek. "We're all trying to get ourselves positioned," says Accenture's Ginsburg. For its part SAP promises new announcements soon, and confirmed plans with Intel and Alien Technology to open an item level tagged Metro retail store in Germany this April. On the Drawing Board There are many more nuances which will drive startups and mainstream competitors to new requirements and products in support of RFID. One such need is an agile reader that can scan multiple frequencies and formats, which vary by regulation, materials and geography. Another is the need to take an event-oriented approach to handing up RFID information. With all the potential reporting, companies need to discriminate between useful and overabundant information. The Auto-ID center has created a public domain framework for what it calls a savant, a bridge between the application and RFID technology vendors. Software developer Oat Systems is working with savants to add business rules. "If the item doesn't move, and I'm reading 1,000 tags per second, I don't care about the fact that it hasn't moved," Abell says. "If it's moving to an area that might be the wrong temperature or indicate theft, I want to know." For Gillette, picking more than three cartridges of razor blades might be a good reason to trigger a security camera. As we mentioned in our last story, a landmark will arrive in October with a conference in Chicago rolling out Version 1.0 of the EPC code. But there is much more going on in the interim. Abell says a recent event in Cambridge, England drew a large variety of users and interested parties as diverse as DHL and the Gemological Society. Pilots or not, the demand is plain. Beyond the clout of the Auto-ID Center members, the entrepreneurial and venture capital interests are also active in the area. "Some will catch fire, some will catch up and many will just disappear," says Ginsburg. "There are clearly some big established companies that have had their head in the sand on this subject, or say it's a long ways off so I'm not going to pay any attention and in the meantime, boom! A 500 million tag order goes to Alien. Thank you very much." (Jim Ericson is editorial director and news editor at Line56)

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RFID Changes Everything


Radio frequency identification of unique products in the supply chain is no pipe dream; some of the world's largest companies want to see it put the industry on its ear
by Jim Ericson, Line56 Thursday, September 19, 2002

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In the next few years and beyond, the supply chain is aiming at a major facelift, some of which is already under way. If success favors those who are prepared, then it's a good time to take a look at the current state of radio frequency identification (RFID) as the tool being bet on. For businesses, RFID is simply about using radio waves to automatically identify physical items in varying proximity to machine "readers" which can uniquely identify them at the ship, truck, container, pallet or unique item level. As it applies to the supply chain, RFID and electronic product codes (EPCs) are not just a replacement for the under-appreciated barcodes which revolutionized the manufacturing, retail and shipping businesses 29 years ago. They are a giant step forward in supply-chain visibility which one day should track goods from raw material to landfill, and simultaneously address issues like counterfeiting, theft, and perishability.

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Before you call in the hyperbole police to arrest us for overstatement, understand that it's the availability and sheer variety of applications that get people thinking in Star Trek terms. Consider the supply chain parallels in this real example of technology in use today: In large marathon races like those run in New York or Boston, officials need to account for not only the winner, but for each of thousands of runners jostling in the streets. At the start of the race, contestants affix a small transponder to their bodies. Machine readers mark the correct time they cross the starting line, chart relative progress at many intervals, reveal where they slowed, sped, or dropped out. Spectators watch the ebb and flow on a leader board, and a permanent record secures the outcome. That's basically it. RFID may revolutionize the supply chain, but it's hardly a new concept. "Friend or foe" beacons identified military aircraft as far back as the Second World War. Newer uses arose about 17 years ago in livestock and vehicle identification tracking. Lately, salmon roe are tracked in rivers with RFID, and there is talk of RFID tags in every euro bill. Though ubiquitous RFID is no a slam-dunk business certainty, the technology works today in applications where computers are able to recognize things around themselves automatically. Efficiency, Security, Authenticity Kevin Ashton is executive director of the Auto-ID Center, a research arm of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Charged with building consensus and standards for uses of RFID, Ashton's group might consider how the postal service could improve delivery, or how the Department of Defense might fight a war more efficiently. The business side of RFID, he says, is the real prize. "The question is, 'How do we use this to sell more stuff and be more profitable?'"

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In Ashton's mind, a warehouse is just an excuse for not knowing what you need. The center is also working with a bandwagon of businesses (initially in retail and pharmaceutical), that are testing and applying RFID for top and bottom-line benefits. "We got involved in RFID and EPC trying to solve two problems and take advantage of one opportunity," says Larry Kellum, director of B2B supply chain innovation at Procter & Gamble. The problems are theft and counterfeiting, supply chain failures that are respective $50 and $500 billion problems for global retailers. The opportunity, he says, is the potential to identify products right down to the unique unit level and follow them through the supply chain. Theft is addressed today with at least four technologies, acoustic-magnetic, (the little white rectangles on high-value goods); foil radio frequency tags; electromagnetic; and microwave tags. While these systems were initially bought and applied by retailers, the cost became such that manufacturers soon took over some of the work, applying security devices inside costlier packaged goods, perhaps working with four piles of inventory. As for counterfeiting, which many consider an Asian problem, Kellum says P&G has found counterfeit bottles of Head&Shoulders shampoo near its Cincinnati headquarters. "There are three occasions this year where the FDA has pulled pharmaceutical drugs off shelves when there was no way to tell the real from the fake," Kellum says. In such cases, whole stocks were destroyed. In the wake of terror attacks, the scrutiny will only increase. Meanwhile, product identification remains the work of the ubiquitous barcodes, UPC in the United States, and EAN in 96 other countries around the world. "Barcodes have had almost immeasurable impact," says Ashton, "but they're probably the only piece of information technology from the 1960s that we still use unchanged." And, barcodes are not really automatic identification technology. Applied by manufacturers, they're usually read once, manually, at the checkout counter. "That's not the only time you want to know where a product is, or what it is," Ashton says. Point-of-sale information is of little use if an inventory system is waiting to sell 10 items that have been stolen off the shelf, and not many businesses can afford more than annual inventories. RFID won't stop street-corner fencing of goods, but it could prevent a retailer from buying gray-market perfume. Tag, You're It! RFID/EPC technology takes the security idea a step farther. So-called "smart tags" are unpowered microcomputer chips activated when placed in the transmitting field of a fixed or moving reader. "In its lowest cost implementation, it has just enough information to say its name or shut up," says Ashton. Though it transmits nothing more than a unique number, when connected to a network like the Internet, its value multiplies. There's plenty of theorizing about the value of "smart shelves" that can itemize inventory in real time, self-checkout, managing expiration dates and item location in stores. "In 35 percent of cases, people walk out of apparel stores without product when the product was there, but the customer or sales rep couldn't find it," notes Pete Abell, director of retail research at AMR. RFID, he says, has many niche applications in higher-priced perishables and shelf goods with expiration dates as well. "It's a value equation," Abell says. "No one wants fines or consumer lawsuits." The value equation is the central issue around RFID deployment, a mix of product ubiquity, value, and the cost of the tag. A 40-cent tag makes sense for a leather jacket, but not for a can of soup. So, many retailers and middlemen are experimenting with RFID at the pallet, and perhaps the case level. CHEP, a large, London-based company that pools pallets and containers, launched a pilot last year to install 250,000 EPC-compliant chips on its products. A company like Wal-Mart, big as it is, has only three pallet suppliers. Pushing the scale to 500,000 pallets brings the cost down; Abell believes Wal-Mart is hoping the technology, even at that level, might lower supply chain costs 3 to 5 percent. P&G is already in a pallet-level field test with a Sam's store in Tulsa; next February it begins case-level testing with Sams and Wal-Mart on products shipped from P&G's Missouri plant. If

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they choose, testing could include active, self-powered tags connected to GPS units, and even temperature sensing tags. Reconciling damage in transit and invoice disputes are still more potential benefits of RFID. In early 2003, P&G also plans tests at the item level, and will even include some smart shelves that track the identity of unique bottles or cans, not just grades and classes. But making RFID practical on the item level is still a ways out, a chicken and egg problem that will determine if quantities ever drive chip cost to a nickel or less. "If we tag all the pallets and cases we should in a year, that would take about 2.5 billion tags," says Kellum. "At the item level, it's more like 22 billion. Until you build five billion chips, you can't get to a nickel." All Tags Equal The P&G case is just one of scores or hundreds of simple and deep trials underway in the U.S., and to an even greater extent in Europe. Many of these projects are under wraps at companies that feel they're protecting a competitive advantage. The industry and solutions are fragmented to the point where Kellum has identified 123 protocols for RFID. "Just about all of them work, and they're all incompatible," he says. On October 1, 1999, (the 25th anniversary of the UCC code), the Auto-ID Center came into official existence in MIT's engineering department. Having developed the barcode in the first place, MIT was a logical setting to extend the discussion. Funded by UCC, Gillette and P&G, the center today has 50 sponsors on three continents, a who's who of CPG, technology, shipping, and retail interests, not to mention the U.S. Department of Defense and Postal Service. A work in progress, the Auto-ID Center sponsors have met, developed and demonstrated technology, and worked for a common set of standards for RFID. But there were bound to be squabbles, such as those over extant UPC and EAN standards. To their credit, the group has opened Auto-ID centers in Cambridge, England, and Adelaide, Australia; next month, new centers will be announced in Tokyo and Shanghai; another is planned in South America. The actual code structure may not be the greatest issue. "Revenue is the dirty little secret," Abell says. Both EAN and UPC are paid for issuing code to suppliers in their countries. While UCC governs 26 industries in North America, EAN is fragmented across 96 nations. "They all have little bureaucracies to feed," Abell says. As a result, the Auto-ID Center has made sure it can set aside enough unique digits so all the parties can continue to issue code. Also, technology is ahead of the game. "Relative to standards, we always say, 'Look at whether RFID can improve your automation today and go from there,'" says Susy d'Hont, marketing manager at RFID system manufacturer Matrics, one of some 30 tech partners welcomed but treated neutrally at the Auto-ID Center. With technology a proprietary advantage, best-practice leaders won't wait for consensus. The process is incremental, though d'Hont says without standards, the market might never scale to the billions. There are technical issues as well. Different countries allow different frequencies and power levels for RFID devices. For Matrics, 10 feet is the minimum standard for RFID measurement; other system vendors see it differently. The very properties of the materials being scanned, plastics, liquids, metals, can also affect the properties of the devices. Finally, you might also worry that ubiquitous use of RFID would make the tags themselves subject to counterfeit. With proper infrastructure in place that would be hard to do, Ashton says, the equivalent of typing a Web address into a browser for a page that doesn't exist. A Meeting of Minds The proof will be in the pudding. Mark your calendars for October, 2003, the date set for a symposium in Chicago. There, Version 1 of EPC automatic identification will be rolled out, with open specifications for tags talking to readers, readers talking to computers, standards for capturing and managing the data and so on. Hopefully, a lot of vendors will be present as well. "People will be fighting to sell you compliant tags just like they fight to sell you PCs today," says Ashton.

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It's not an all-at-once proposition, but Ashton hopes some of the rest of the world will be ready to at least dip their toes in the technology. The more people who use the technology, the more valuable it becomes, and the cheaper it gets. "We'll have six months to a year," Ashton says. If confidence and momentum remain high, things could happen quickly from the end of 2004. "By 2010 it could be a whole different world or nothing could happen," he says, with a scientist's aplomb. He's also hoping for results beyond pure capitalistic efficiency. The Auto-ID center is working with consumer and watchdog groups and promises easy, secure opt-out for consumers who fear obtrusive marketing and data gathering. In the end, he feels you're identifying a product, not a person, and for those who participate, the technology will be no more intrusive than a grocery loyalty card. For futurists who see the days of "smart appliances," refrigerators or microwave ovens that can interrogate their contents, the technology may be helpful, but that's way down the road. We have moved past the starting line though. Recycling, Ashton says, could be the greatest application of all. Imagine if, in 20 years, everything had a chip in it. The landfill operator could establish what he has and what to do with it. "So many things go into holes in the ground because we can't sort them out." Will we ever reach the day when every product made carries a unique number? Are there even enough numbers to go around? Leave it to MIT to at least get that issue out of the way. EPC Version 1 contains 96 bits (ones and zeroes). "Fifty-six bits is enough to number every grain of rice consumed on the planet this year," Ashton says. "One hundred twenty-eight bits can number every molecule on the surface of the Earth." In this regard at least, future-speak or not, Y3K is already taken care of. (Jim Ericson is editorial director and senior news editor at Line56 Media)

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Transponder news - KSW Microtec GmbH - Suppliers of radio frequency identification (RFID) transponders

A news service reporting on developments regarding the use of radio based tagging transponder systems for commerce and scientific applications. Covering the RFID technologies, EAS technologies and magnetic coupled techniques.

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KSW Microtec GmbH Gesellschaft fur angewandte Microtechnik mbH Gostritzer Str 63 D001217 Dresden Germany Tel +49-351-871-8044 Fax +49-351-871-8411 Email: Jens Galties(galties@ksw-microtec.de) KSW Microtec GmbH are a solution provider for the high volume assembly of transponder inlays and tags Their speciality is in the provision of solutions for the flip chip assembly of transponder and smartcard systems using adhesives and polymer tape. The use of polymer tape as substrate and adhesive paves the way for low cost packaging of smart labels. KSW Microtec can provide this low cost assembling solution with their expertise and extended capabilities in flip chip technologies. Based on a broad spectrum of isotropic conductive (ICA), anisotropic conductive (ACA), and non-conductive adhesives (NCA), electroless Pd plating and stencil printing, the flip chips could be assembled on different types of antenna. The assembling technology is easily adaptable for antennas made out of a few windings - printed, winded, etched or punched coil, copper or aluminium traces in any shape. KSW Microtec's strength in reel to reel manufacturing assures that our cost-effective inlays will remain a solution for your identification.

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Transponder news - KSW Microtec GmbH - Suppliers of radio frequency identification (RFID) transponders

The company KSW Microtec was started in 1994, from a viewpoint of the application and further advancement of the Flip Chip Technology. As Europe's first service supplier of Polymer Flip Chip technology KSW Microtec offers an advanced technology in microelectronic packaging and assembly. The success of KSW Microtec rests on the well-qualified and highly motivated co-workers. Most modern equipment such as electroless plating line, precision screen/ stencil printer for wafer and substrate bumping, highly accurate pick & place machines, automatic dispensers accommodated in a clean space, guarantee the highest quality and largest throughput. The company has close cooperation with international manufacturers and guarantees the customers an optimal solution.
Suppliers, if you want your details added, please send the details via Email - Ed

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RFID Journal - RFID Vendors - The Americas

RFID Vendors - The Americas


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Advanced Data Capture Corp.: This Concord, Mass., maker of bar code equipment is moving into RFID systems. Ameritrac Wireless, Inc.: Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Ameritrac offers RFID, systems, as well as real-time location tracking systems. The company was founded in 2002 and purchased RJI, an RFID systems integrator. The Argent Group: Based in Troy Michigan, the Argent Group is a small consortium of businesses formed to offer RFID and smart label users a complete service, including specification, selection, and installation of hardware, and software, and systems integration. The companies are converters and printers of various materials for incorporation into adhesive or non-adhesive labels, which are used throughout automotive, pharmaceuticals, consumer products and other supply chains. Argent specializes in the manufacture of smart labels, many of which incorporate RFID technology. They can print antennas using conductive inks and can assist clients with selection of the most appropriate chips and antenna designs. Applied Wireless Identifications: Based in Monsey, NY, AWID offers RFID readers for access control and asset tracking. The company has developed the first multi-protocol reader housed inside a standard PCMCIA card, which can be used with handheld computers. Avid Canada: A Canadian company that offers an injectable RFID microchip for tracking pets and farm animals. Avid, Inc.: This Norco, Calif. Company offers systems for track your pets or your cattle. AXCESS Inc.: Based in Dallas, Texas, Axcess provides network-based security and asset management systems for the enterprise, including RFID systems. Checkpoint Systems: Based in Thorofare, NJ. Checkpoint is a leader in Electronic Article Surveillance. Its technology is also used in libraries to track books and in other asset tracking applications. CrossLink Inc.: This Boulder, Colorado, company offers wireless data, RFID, bluetooth and telemetry technology. EasyFile: This File Management software company offers an RFID solution for tracking important documents. The system can be set up to sound an alarm when critical files are removed from the building, or a particular area, without authorization. The

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companys solutions are aimed at a variety of industries, including consulting, insurance, financial services, legal, government, and health care. eXI Wireless Inc.: Richmond, British Columbia-based eXI is a developer and manufacturer of RFID infrastructure and tagging products, including Assetrac for tracking, managing and securing assets; Halo for infant protection; and RoamAlertPlus for tracking patients and preventing them from leaving specific areas. HID Corp.: A spin off of Hughes Aircraft, this company provides radio frequency (RFID) and Wiegand solutions for automated identification and data transmission in access control and asset management applications. Identec Solutions: A Canadian company based in Kelowna, BC, Identec offers long-range active RFID equipment for asset tracking." Indala: Acquired by ASSA ABLOY in November of 2001, Indala manufactures proximity cards and readers. Its line of FlexPass readers combines intelligent programming technology with interchangeable components, including uniform modules and a range of stylish cover designs. Indala's product portfolio also consists of FlexPass cards, tags and OEM modules. Founded in 1985 and acquired by Motorola in 1993, Indala's installed base consists of approximately 60 million cards and 1 million readers. The company's headquarters is located in San Jose, California. i-Ray, Inc.: Based in Ashland Mass., i-Ray develops wireless location and positioning technologies for resource management, delivering far-reaching readranges, highly accurate 3D-positioning, Web-based remote systems management and open and scaleable platforms. Intermec Technologies Corp.: A UNOVA Inc. company, Intermec is a leader in global supply chain solutions and in the development, manufacture and integration of wired and wireless automated data collection, Intellitag RFID, mobile computing systems, bar code printers and label media. The companys products and services are used by customers in many industries to improve productivity, quality and responsiveness of business operations, from supply chain management and enterprise resource planning to field sales and service. ITS Cooperative Deployment Network: A shared Internet resource containing news, insight, and resources about intelligent transportation systems for transportation professionals and agencies alike. LAN-Link Corporation: St. Louis, Missouri-based LANLink offers integrated systems using RFID Technology, specializing in waste management, asset tracking & access control. Lockwood Technology: This Merrimack, N.H., company, founded in 1994, offers asset tracking and physical inventory software and service using RFID and bar code technology for various industries around world. Specialties include custom solutions to match customer needs in various environments. Clients
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RFID Journal - RFID Vendors - The Americas

include banks, school districts, software companies, healthcare facilities, insurance companies, law firms, among others. OMI International, Inc.: This Dallas software company is a leading provider of integrated supply chain management solutions. Its asset and dock management system can use RFID technology to automate scheduling and movement of trucks through a yard as they pick up goods and drop of salvaged goods. In North America, one or more of OMI's SCM offerings is installed in 60% of the top 100 retail grocery organizations and in 46% of the wholesale grocery businesses. PrePass: An automatic vehicle identification system that allows participating transponder equipped commercial vehicles to bypass designated weigh stations and port-of entry facilities. RF Code: Based in Mesa, Ariz., RF Code designs, develops and manufactures high-performance, low-cost real-time locating systems for tracking physical assets, information and personnel. The company, which was founded in 1997, sells complete systems comprised of radio-frequency tags, readers, antennas and software. Status information is relayed via Total Asset Visibility software, which can interface to legacy database systems on a local, regional or worldwide basis. RJI, Inc.: Based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., RJI provides RFID, real-time location and telematics tracking solutions across a wide range of industries. Assets are monitored through the RJI tracking portal, a secure hosted Web site used to provide a graphical view of activity, aggregate data, and generate reports. Savi Technology: A division spun off by Raytheon, they build supply chain systems for the U.S. military. Now they are moving into software for tracking goods in the supply chain. Chep International is working with them to track pallets in one of the first large scale RFID tests. SCS Corporation: Based in San Diego, SCS provides passive radio frequency identification tags and scanners for industries requiring item tracking and management technology. SIRIT: This Toronto-company's Radio Frequency Solutions division creates custom RFID readers that are embedded into industrial printers, hand-held computers and cashless payment terminals from major manufacturers. The division also does R&D for smart shelves that can read radio frequency waves emitted by RFID chips embedded into product packaging. The information can be used to alert employees when stock or inventory is low and to facilitate automated merchandising techniques for consumer products companies. Founded in 1993, SIRIT also has divisions that focus on Automatic Vehicle Identification applications, including electronic toll collection, parking and access control, airports, fleet, vehicle registration and intermodal applications. Smart RF: This Sunnyvale, Calif., company is an application/sales/marketing and engineering organization that supplies products, technology and services for short-haul voice and data wireless
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communications for a variety of environments, including RFID asset management. The company works with marketing partners to provide systems integration along with sales, applications and engineering support for customers. Syscan: This Quebec, Canada, company makes RFID transponders and RFID readers, software and numerous smart card applications. Applications include asset tracking, warehousing and logistics, and livestock monitoring. Tiris Electronic Toll and Traffic Management: The home page for Texas Instruments toll collection technology. Transcore: One of the leading providers of active RFID tags and readers. It's technology is used for toll collection systems, fleet management, tracking railway cars, mobile commerce and tracking baggage at airports.

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ALIEN - Overview

Overview Alien Technology Corporation is working with the Auto-ID Center and leading technology partners to deploy electronic product code (EPC) tags inexpensive enough to let virtually every product communicate, both locally and globally, throughout its life cycle. By incorporating EPC tags into your supply chain, warehouse operations, and retail stores, you can cut operating costs and eliminate stock-outs while reducing inventory and billing errors. Using the Auto-ID Center's open protocol, Alien delivers high performance at the lowest possible cost. The blue-chip membership of the Auto-ID Center, including leading global retailers and consumer goods companies, ensure that the protocol will see broad application and will be supported by major software and technology companies. Even the simplest EPC tag is a powerful tool, with a user-programmable 64-bit code representing standard barcode data plus individual unit identification. Built on proven UHF technology, Alien's low-cost EPC tags and readers provide the range, speed, and robustness required for logistics and asset tracking. In addition to EPC tags, Alien offers more sophisticated battery powered backscatter tags, that feature longer range, additional memory, and onboard data processing, making them well suited for temperature and condition sensing. All Alien RFID systems seamlessly integrate into your existing IT infrastructure using standard network protocols.

RFID IC (1.3 mm square RFID IC representing current practice) shown with six 350 micron square Nanoblock ICs. Alien is working with partners Rafsec and Avery Dennison for manufacturing of inlays and finished tags. The first product, a 64-bit read-only tag operating in the 915 MHz band, is expected by Jan. 2003. Passive and semi-passive RFID products with greater capability and at higher frequencies will follow shortly thereafter. Alien expects to pursue a variety of business models in RFID, including producing "straps" (IC's with leads ready to attach to an antenna), contract manufacturing, and licensing. Fluidic Self Assembly
http://www.alientechnology.com/technology/overview.html (1 of 2)7/31/2003 2:40:17 AM

ALIEN - Overview

Alien Technology has developed, and holds exclusive patent rights to, a manufacturing assembly technology called Fluidic Self Assembly (FSA) which was invented at UC Berkeley by Prof. John S. Smith. FSA allows for the efficient placement of arbitrarily large numbers of small components across a surface in a single operation. FSA has numerous potential uses. The Company plans to first use the technology to manufacture very low-cost RFID tags and subsequently to address other potential markets such as antennas and sensors. Alien's revolutionary FSA process allows us to package tiny integrated circuits (NanoBlock ICs) for assembly into EPC tags at rates upwards of 2,000,000 per hour versus the approximately 10,000 per hour possible with conventional methods that are only capable of handling much larger and more costly ICs. This is essential for reducing the cost of tags, but is also important for producing EPC tags in quantities of billions or even trillions. The Company has demonstrated the feasibilityof the FSA process and has engaged with leaders in web processing to apply proven web equipment and processes. The first high volume assembly line is nearing completion. Key customers and other partners from around the world have endorsed the Company's strategy through direct investments, purchase orders and/or development agreements.

Nanoblock IC and corresponding hole

For more information on Alien's technology, download the FSA White Paper info@alientechnology.com

or email

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Auto-ID Center - About The Technology

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Introduction What is automatic identification? Why Focus on Radio Frequency Identification? The Importance of tracking Individual Items? Creating an Internet of Things Identifying Trillions of Items

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Introduction The Auto-ID Center aims to change the world. By creating an open global network that can identify anything, anywhere, automatically, it seeks to give companies something that, until now, they have only dreamed of: near-perfect supply chain visibility. The system, if widely adopted, could eliminate human error from data collection, reduce inventories, keep product in-stock, reduce loss and waste, and improve safety and security. The possibilities seem limitless. The following pages deal with the basics of auto identification and data capture. It explains the shortcomings of existing technology and shows how an open, global network for identifying goods with RFID tags has the potential to make companies vastly more efficient and profitable.

Click here for the Idiots Guide, a topline introduction Click here for an Indepth Look at the technology building blocks Click here to download a Technology Guide Click here to download and comment on our latest specifications

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How the EPC Network Will Automate the Supply Chain Adding Identity to Products Adding Identity to Cases Reading Tags Savant at Work ONS at Work PML at Work Efficiency in Distribution Efficiency in Inventory Overstocking Eliminated Consumer Convenience

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How the EPC Network Will Automate the Supply Chain With the new EPC network, computers will be able to 'see' physical objects, allowing manufacturers to be able to track and trace items automatically throughout the supply chain. This technology will revolutionize the way we manufacture, sell and buy products. Here's how it works

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How the EPC Network Will Automate the Supply Chain Adding Identity to Products Adding Identity to Cases Reading Tags Savant at Work ONS at Work PML at Work Efficiency in Distribution Efficiency in Inventory Overstocking Eliminated Consumer Convenience

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Adding Identity to Products SuperCola, Inc. adds a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag to every cola can it produces. Each tag is cheap - it costs about five cents - and contains a unique Electronic Product Code, or EPC. This is stored in the tag's microchip which, at 400 microns square, is smaller than a grain of sand. The tag also includes a tiny radio antenna.

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Adding Identity to Cases These tags will allow the cola cans to be identified, counted and tracked in a completely automated, cost-effective fashion. The cans are packed into cases - which feature their own RFID tags - and loaded onto tagged palettes.

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How the EPC Network Will Automate the Supply Chain Adding Identity to Products Adding Identity to Cases Reading Tags Savant at Work ONS at Work PML at Work Efficiency in Distribution Efficiency in Inventory Overstocking Eliminated Consumer Convenience

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Reading Tags As the palettes of cola leave the manufacturer, an RFID reader positioned above the loading dock door hits the smart tags with radio waves, powering them. The tags "wake up" and start broadcasting their individual EPCs. Like a good kindergarten teacher, the reader only allows one tag to talk at a time. It rapidly switches them on and off in sequence, until it's read them.

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Savant at Work The reader is wired into a computer system running Savant. It sends Savant the EPCs it's collected, and Savant goes to work. The system sends a query over the internet to an Object Name Service (ONS) database, which acts like a reverse telephone directory - it receives a number and produces an address.

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ONS at Work The ONS server matches the EPC number (the only data stored on an RFID tag) to the address of a server which has extensive information about the product. This data is available to, and can be augmented by, Savant systems around the world.

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PML at Work This second server uses PML, or Physical Markup Language, to store comprehensive data about manufacturers' products. It recognizes the incoming EPCs as belonging to cans of SuperCola, Inc.'s Cherry Hydro. Because it knows the location of the reader which sent the query, the system now also knows which plant produced the cola. If an incident involving a defect or tampering arose, this information would make it easy to track the source of the problem - and recall the products in question.

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Efficiency in Distribution The palettes of cola arrive at the shipping service's distribution center. Thanks to RFID readers in the unloading area, there's no need to open packages and examine their contents. Savant provides a description of the cargo, and the cola is quickly routed to the appropriate truck.

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Efficiency in Inventory The delivery arrives at SpeedyMart, who has been tracking the shipment thanks to its own Savant connection. SpeedyMart also has loading dock readers. As soon as the cola arrives, SpeedyMart's retail systems are automatically updated to include every can of Cherry Hydro that arrived. In this manner, SpeedyMart can locate its entire Cherry Hydro inventory automatically, accurately and without incurring cost.

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Overstocking Eliminated What's more, SpeedyMart's retail shelves also feature integrated readers. When the cans of cola are stocked, the shelves "understand" what's being put in them. Now, when a customer grabs a six-pack of Cherry Hydro, the diminished shelf will route a message to SpeedyMart's automated replenishment systems - which will order more Cherry Hydro from SuperCola, Inc. With such a system, the need to maintain costly "safety volumes" of Cherry Hyrdo in remote warehouses is eliminated.

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Consumer Convenience Auto-ID makes the customer's life easier, too. Rather than wait in line for a cashier, she simply walks out the door with her purchases. A reader built into the door recognizes the items in her cart by their individual EPCs; A swipe of the debit or credit card and the customer is on her way.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

An in-depth look at the new network The Auto-ID Center and its sponsors are working to develop flexible tags and readers and to bring the cost of the hardware down to a level where RFID can be used to track individual items. And we're working to create a new, open, global network that will allow companies to take advantage of low-cost RFID tags. Below, we explain the key elements of our approach to automatic identification in greater depth.

The Electronic Product Code The Auto-ID Center has proposed a new Electronic Product Code as the next standard for identifying products. Our goal is not to replace existing bar code standards, but rather to create a migration path for companies to move from established standards for bar codes to the new EPC. To encourage this evolution, we have adopted the basic structures of the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), an umbrella group under which virtually all existing bar codes fall. There's no guarantee that the world will adopt the EPC, but our proposal already has the support of the Uniform Code Council and EAN International, the two main bodies that oversee international bar code standards. We're also working with other national and international trade groups and standard bodies. How it works The EPC is a number made up of a header and three sets of data, as shown in the above figure. The header identifies the EPC's version number - this allows for different lengths or types of EPC later on. The second part of the number identifies the EPC Manager - most likely the manufacturer of the product the EPC is attached to - for example 'The Coca-Cola Company'. The third, called object class, refers to the exact type of product, most often the Stock Keeping Unit - for example 'Diet Coke 330 ml can, US version'. The fourth is the serial number, unique to the item - this tells us exactly which 330 ml can of Diet Coke we are referring to. This makes it possible, for example, to quickly find products that might be nearing their expiration date. Types of EPCs The Auto-ID Center has proposed EPCs of 64- and 96 bits. Eventually, there could be more. The 96-bit number is the one we think should be most common. We chose 96 bits as a compromise between the desire to ensure that all objects have a unique EPC and the need to keep the cost of the

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Auto-ID Center - About The Technology

tag down. The 96-bit EPC provides unique identifiers for 268 million companies. Each manufacturer can have 16 million object classes and 68 billion serial numbers in each class, more than enough to cover all products manufactured worldwide for years to come. Since there is no need for that many serial numbers at this time, we propose an interim 64-bit code. The smaller code will help keep the price of the RFID chips down initially, while providing more than enough unique EPCs for current needs.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

The Basics of RFID Tags An RFID tag is made up of a microchip attached to an antenna. There are different kinds of tags for different applications, and we'll explain these in this section. One of the keys to making RFID useful for tracking individual items is dramatically reducing the cost of the tags. The section below explains how we plan to do that. Active vs passive Active RFID tags have a battery, which is used to run the microchip's circuitry and to broadcast a signal to a reader (the way a cell phone transmits signals to a base station). Passive tags have no battery. Instead, they draw power from the reader, which sends out electromagnetic waves that induce a current in the tag's antenna. Semi-passive tags use a battery to run the chip's circuitry, but communicate by drawing power from the reader. Active and semi-passive tags are useful for tracking high-value goods that need to be scanned over long ranges, such as railway cars on a track, but they cost a dollar or more, making them too expensive to put on low-cost items. The Auto-ID Center is focusing on passive tags, which cost under a dollar today. Their read range isn't as far - less than ten feet vs. 100 feet or more for active tags - but they are far less expensive than active tags and require no maintenance. We also research other tag types, however, and they are not excluded from our system. Read-write vs. read-only Chips in RF tags can be read-write or read-only. With readwrite chips, you can add information to the tag or write over existing information when the tag is within range of a reader, or interrogator. Read-write tags are useful in some specialized applications, but since they are more expensive than read-only chips, they are impractical for tracking inexpensive items. Some read-only microchips have information stored on them during the manufacturing process. The information on such chips can never be changed. Another method is to use something called electrically erasable programmable read-only memory, or EEPROM. With EEPROM, the data can be overwritten using a special electronic process. The Auto-ID Center's spec We are not creating RFID tags or even telling vendors what types of tags to make. Our only concern is that tags carry an EPC, communicate in an open standard way, and meet some minimum performance requirements so they can be read by readers anywhere. However, because very lowcost tags are a key component of our system, we have been working on designs for chips that will cost around 5 cents when produced in bulk and can be read from at least four feet. The first tags are ultra-high frequency; that is, they operate at 915 MHz. They use EEPROM, so companies

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Auto-ID Center - About The Technology

can write an EPC to the tag when the item is produced and packaged, but other memory technologies could also be used.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

Bringing Down Tag Costs The high-cost of RFID tags has been one of the biggest inhibitors to wide-scale adoption of the technology. Today, the cheapest RFID tags sell for about 50 cents in large quantities. At the Auto-ID Center, we aim to bring down the price of a tag to 5 cents. We have devised several strategies for doing that. Simple is better Under the Auto-ID Center's scheme, a 96-bit or 64-bit Electronic Product Code will be the only information stored on the chip in an RFID tag. That's because chips with less memory cost less money. Consider that a single gate of silicon logic - the fundamental building block for digital microchips - costs about one thousandth of one cent. The Auto-ID Center's members produce more than 500 billion units a year, so each additional logic gate on a tag would cost them more than $5 million in lost profit. Shrink the chip One key to bringing down the cost of passive, read-only tags is the size of the microchip used. The price of an 8inch silicon wafer is relatively stable, but by cutting the wafer into smaller pieces, the price of each chip falls. Today, most wafers are cut with a diamond saw. This process yields a maximum of about 15,000 microchips that are one millimeter square. A process called wet etching laying down a thin line of acid to eat through the wafer can yield upwards of 250,000 chips that are about 150 microns square, or about three times the width of a human hair. Chips that are small are much cheaper than traditional microchips. But working with them has always been a problem. Pick-and-place robots that handle most silicon chips are unable to deal with anything that tiny. Auto-ID Center sponsor Alien Technology, a startup based in Morgan Hill, Calif., has developed a process called fluidic self-assembly to put the chips in a base, so the antennas can be added. The chips have beveled edges because of the way the acid eats through the silicon crystal. Alien creates a base with holes that look like molds for these chips. It then flows thousands of tiny chips, which Alien calls "nanoblocks," in a special liquid over the base and some fall perfectly into place. The rest are collected and reused. The base is cut into straps with metal pads so an antenna can be mounted on the chip to create a tag. The antenna and chip are sandwiched between two layers to create a finished tag. When Alien's new production facility is fully operational, it will turn out 80 billion chips a year. Other methods of assembling small chips are also being developed, as are improvements to existing approaches. One promising approach is vibratory assembly, which is being researched by MIT and also by Auto-ID Center sponsor Philips Semiconductor.

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A new antenna Another key to creating low-cost tags is reducing the cost of the antenna. Rafsec, an Auto-ID Center sponsor, is developing an innovative antenna that will be attached to Alien chips to make tags that, at high volumes, could cost around 5 cents. Today, most RFID antennas are made by removing elements from conductive metals like copper and aluminum with acid and then shaping them. Rafsec, a subsidiary of Finland's UPM-Kymmene Corp., one of the world's largest manufacturers of printing papers, has pioneered a high-speed plating technology, where an antenna is printed using conductive ink and then a layer of metal is stamped on top. Using this technology, Rafsec can produce antennas for about a penny when manufactured in bulk, compared with 5 to 15 cents for a typical antenna made with existing technology. Other innovative approaches to low cost antenna manufacturing are being developed by other Auto-ID Center sponsors. Silicon alternatives Several companies are working independently of the AutoID Center on RFID tags that use cheaper alternatives to silicon, and even "chipless tags," that are purely magnetic. These efforts hold great promise, and the Auto-ID Center supports them. The system we are developing does not exclude these technologies or any other. Our vision is of an evolving world where any tag, silicon or not, can talk to any reader, provided that both speak the right language, and meet some basic performance requirements. Chips made of synthetic polymers or special crystals may turn out to be less expensive than silicon chips, and they may have other applications, such as in complementary sensors for detecting temperature or vibration. By creating a global network companies can use to identify products, we are also creating a new market in which such innovations can flourish.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

Understanding Radio Waves Tags communicate with readers using radio waves. Before we explain how readers work, it's useful to explain a little bit about radio waves and their properties. Radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the broad name that scientists use to cover all frequencies of energy emitted in the form of waves. At one end of the spectrum are low-frequency waves, such as those used by AM radio and communication systems for ships at sea. At the high end are x-rays and gamma rays. Government regulation Governments around the world regulate much of the electromagnetic spectrum. FM radio stations in the United States, for instance, must operate between 88 and 108 MHz. (If you listen to 91.5 FM, it means your radio is tuned to receive waves repeating 91.5 million times per second.) One problem with RFID is that countries around the world have assigned parts of the spectrum for different uses. With the exception of special ISM bands, which are set aside for industrial, scientific and medical use, there is almost no part of the spectrum available everywhere in the world. That means a tag operating at 915 MHz in one country might not be readable in another where that area of the spectrum is used for another purpose. One frequency doesn't fit all Even if there were one band of the spectrum available in every country around the world, it might be counterproductive to restrict all RFID tags to that band. That's because different frequencies have different characteristics that make them more useful for different applications. For instance, low frequency tags are cheaper than ultra high frequency (UHF) tags, use less power and are better able to penetrate non-metallic substances. They are ideal for scanning objects with high-water content, such as fruit, at close range. UHF frequencies typically offer better range and can transfer data faster. But they use more power and are less likely to pass through materials. And because they tend to be more "directed," they require a clear path between the tag and reader. UHF tags might be better for scanning boxes of goods as they pass through a bay door into a warehouse. Water and metal Many people have heard that radio waves are absorbed by water and are distorted by metal, making RFID useless for tracking products with high water content or packaged in metal containers. The way radio waves are affected by water and metal does make tracking metal products or those with high water content more problematic, but we have found that good system design and engineering can overcome these shortcomings of RFID. This is one reason why our approach is not to constrain vendors and users by

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promoting a system that relies on just one frequency. Instead, our goal is to create a system in which any tag can be used to identify a product, as long as it has an Electronic Product Code and communicates using some basic communication standards we have established.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

The Reader RFID readers use a variety of methods to communicate with tags. The most common method for reading passive tags at close range is called inductive coupling. Simply put, the coiled antenna of the reader creates a magnetic field with the coiled antenna of the tag. The tag draws energy from this field and uses it to send back waves to the reader, which are turned into digital information - the tag's Electronic Product Code. Affordable agile readers Today, readers cost $1,000 or more. Most can only read chips using a single frequency. The Auto-ID Center has designed reference specifications for agile readers that can read chips of different frequencies. That way, companies can use different types of tags in different situations and not have to buy a reader for each frequency. Since companies will need to buy many readers to cover all the area of their operations, readers must be affordable. Our spec will enable manufacturers to produce agile readers for around $100 in volume. Avoiding reader collision One problem encountered with RFID readers is the signal from one can interfere with the signal from another where coverage overlaps. This is called reader collision. The AutoID Center uses an anti-collision scheme called time division multiple access, or TDMA. In simple terms, the readers are instructed to read at different times, rather than both trying to read at the same time. This ensures that they don't interfere with each other. But it means any RFID tag in an area where two readers overlap will be read twice. So we've developed a system for deleting duplicate codes. Avoiding tag collision Another problem readers have is reading a lot of chips in the same field. Tag collision occurs when more than one chip reflects back a signal at the same time, confusing the reader. The Auto-ID Center has adopted a standard method for solving the problem. The reader asks tags to respond only if their first digits match the digits communicated by the reader. In essence, the reader says to the tags: "Respond only if your EPC begins with 0." If more than one chip responds, the reader then says: "Respond if your EPC begins with 00." It keeps doing this until only one tag responds. But it happens so quickly that a reader can read 50 tags in less than a second. Read range The read range of a tag depends on the power of the reader and the frequency the reader and tag use to communicate. Generally speaking, higher frequency tags have longer read ranges but they require more energy output from the reader. A typical low frequency tag has to

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be read within a foot. A UHF tag can be read from 10 to 20 feet. Range can be a critical issue in some applications, such as identifying train cars as they roll down the track. But longer range isn't always an advantage. If you had two readers in a warehouse the size of a football field, you might know what's in inventory, but the readers wouldn't help you find it. For the supply chain, it's better to have a network of readers that can pinpoint precisely where a tag is. The Auto-ID Center's design is for an agile reader that can read tags from around four feet.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

Savant In a world where every object has an RFID tag, readers will be picking up a continual stream of EPCs. Managing and moving all this data is a difficult problem and one that must be overcome for any global RFID network to be of value. The Auto-ID Center has designed software technology called Savant to act as the nervous system of the network. Distributed architecture Savant is different from most enterprise software in that it isn't one overarching application. Instead, it uses a distributed architecture and is organized in a hierarchy that manages the flow of data. There will be Savants running in stores, distribution centers, regional offices, factories, perhaps even on trucks and in cargo planes. Savants at each level will gather, store and act on information and interact with other Savants. For instance, a Savant at a store might inform a distribution center that more product is needed. A Savant at the distribution center might inform the store Savant that a shipment was dispatched at a specific time. Here are some of the tasks the Savants will handle. Data smoothing Savants at the edge of the network - those attached to readers - will smooth data. Not every tag is read every time, and sometimes a tag is read incorrectly. By using algorithms Savant is able to correct these errors. Reader coordination If the signals from two readers overlap, they may read the same tag, producing duplicate EPCs. One of the Savant's jobs is to analyze reads and delete duplicate codes. Data forwarding At each level, the Savant has to decide what information needs to be forwarded up or down the chain. For instance, a Savant in a cold storage facility might forward only changes in the temperature of stored items. Data storage Existing databases can't handle more than a few hundred transactions a second, so another job of the Savants is to maintain a real-time in-memory event database (RIED). In essence, the system will take the EPC data that is generated in real time and store it intelligently, so that other enterprise applications have access to the information, but databases aren't overloaded. Task management All Savants, regardless of their level in the hierarchy, feature a Task Management System (TMS), which enables them to perform data management and data monitoring

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_indepthlook6.asp (1 of 2)7/31/2003 2:46:13 AM

Auto-ID Center - About The Technology

using customizable tasks. For example, a Savant running in a store might be programmed to alert the stockroom manager when product on the shelves drops below a certain level.

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The Electronic Product Code

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

Object Name Service The Auto-ID Center's vision of an open, global network for tracking goods requires some special network architecture. Since only the Electronic Product Code is stored on the tag, computers need some way of matching the EPC to information about the associated item. That's the role of the Object Name Service (ONS), an automated networking service similar to the Domain Name Service (DNS) that points computers to sites on the World Wide Web. When an interrogator reads an RFID tag, the Electronic Product Code is passed on to a Savant (see above). The Savant can, in turn, go to an ONS on a local network or the Internet to find where information on the product is stored. ONS points Savant to a server where a file about that product is stored. That file can then be retrieved by the Savant, and the information about the product in the file can be forwarded to a company's inventory or supply chain applications. Special requirements The Object Name Service will handle many more requests than the Web's Domain Name Service. Therefore, companies will need to maintain ONS servers locally, which will store information for quick retrieval. So a computer manufacturer may store ONS data from its current suppliers on its own network, rather than pulling the information off the Web site every time a shipment arrives at the assembly plant. The system will also have built-in redundancies. For example, if a server with information on a certain product crashes, ONS will be able to point the Savant to another server where the same information is stored.

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The Basics of RFID Tags Bringing Down the Costs of Tags Understanding Radio Waves The Reader Savant Object Name Service Physical Markup Language Control

Physical Markup Language The Electronic Product Code identifies individual products, but all the useful information about the product is written in a new, standard computer language we call Physical Markup Language (PML). PML is based on the widely accepted eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Because it's meant to be a universal standard for describing all physical objects, processes and environments, PML will be broad and will cover all industries. Our aim is to start with a simple language to encourage adoption. PML can evolve over time, just as HTML, the basic language of the Web, has become more sophisticated since it was introduced. Standards for describing objects PML will provide a common method for describing physical objects. It will be broadly hierarchical. So, for instance, a can of Coke might be described as a carbonated beverage, which would fall under the subcategory soft drink, which would fall under the broader category food. Not all classifications are so simple, so to ensure that PML has broad acceptance, we are relying on work already done by standards bodies, such as the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (Le Systme International d'Units SI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States. Types of PML data In addition to product information that doesn't change (such as material composition), PML will include data that changes constantly (dynamic data) and data that changes over time (temporal data). Dynamic data in a PML file might include the temperature of a shipment of fruit, or vibration levels from a machine. Temporal data changes discretely and intermittently throughout an object's life. One example is an object's location. By making all of this information available in a PML file, companies will be able to use information in new and innovative ways. A company could, for instance, set triggers so the price of a product falls as its expiration date approaches. Third party logistics providers could offer service-level contracts indicating that goods will be stored at a certain temperature as they are transported. PMLServer PML files will be stored on a PML server, a dedicated computer that is configured to provide files to other computers requesting them. PML servers will be maintained by manufacturers and will store files for all of the items a manufacturer makes.

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_indepthlook8.asp (1 of 2)7/31/2003 2:46:48 AM

Auto-ID Center - About The Technology

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Control Once Auto ID data is linked to related PML information via a network, the next important issue relates to what decisions should be made on the basis of this information and to what extent the actions that drive physical operations might be influenced. Whether it is in manufacturing, distribution, retail or domestic use, the process of adjusting operating conditions in order to meet desired requirements is known as "control". For example, in manufacturing, this might refer to the optimal maneuvering of a robot to achieve the best packing sequence for a packaging line. The Auto-ID Center's vision is of a world where smart products can interact with machines without human involvement, and hence can influence the manner in which they are produced, moved, sold or used. For instance, a smart washing machine of the future might read a tag sewn into the collar of a shirt, learn directly from a related web site that the shirt is made of a delicate fabric and adjust the wash cycle and amount or type of soap accordingly. Auto ID will enable a new generation of highly distributed and intelligent control systems. For this to happen, however, there has to be a formal process. Decisions The first step, of course, is for a computer or other machine to recognize an object. Our core technology- the EPC, ONS and PML file - make that possible. The PML file may also contain instructions, or rules, about how a shirt should be washed. But there has to be a set of protocols to follow in order that the shirt and machine can "converse" effectively. The washing machine may be incapable of executing certain instructions for example, because it doesn't have a specific feature or is washing other clothes at the same time. The protocols can provide a set of steps to go through to reach a decision, and can even support a "negotiation" between shirt and machine if needed. Execution This refers to the ability of a machine to carry out a set of customized instructions in a suitable manner. Recall that the machine may be washing more than one shirt at a time. There are two basic elements which influence the effectiveness of control execution: physical control and physical operation. Physical control refers to the computer control hardware and software required to execute decisions within the physical world. The physical operation is where digital instructions become real-world actions. Physical operations can include warehouse conveyors, factory robots and smart appliances. The Holy Grail The Auto-ID Center's control research group at the

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_indepthlook9.asp (1 of 2)7/31/2003 2:47:03 AM

Auto-ID Center - About The Technology

University of Cambridge is focused on the fundamental issues associated with control and is considering various novel applications in inventory management, production control, domestic functions, and product distribution. Creating some standard rules, protocols and guidelines for decision making and execution will enable software engineers to develop a new breed of enterprise software that allows managers to set some basic parameters and have machines act on them automatically.

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The Benefits of Real-Time Visibility

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The Benefits of Real-Time Visibility We envision RFID becoming part of every company's basic infrastructure, as important as its local area network. Here are some of the ways companies will benefit from having the ability to track individual items.

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Fewer Out of Stocks Better Merchandising and Promotions Faster Checkout Lower Inventory Reduced Shrinkage Anti-Counterfeiting Better Asset Utilization Targeted Recalls More Efficient Recycling

Fewer Out of Stocks Retailers and their suppliers have long struggled with how to make sure an item is always on the shelf when a customer wants to buy it. Today's inventory systems record only what's been sold and what's on the premises. They provide no visibility into what's on - or not on -- the shelves. And in the case of clothes, where items have to be stocked in a specific order, inventory systems provide no information about what is in stock but not in the right place. As a results, sales are lost even when the goods are at the store because they are not where a customer can find them. RFID has the potential to dramatically reduce out of stocks. One day, readers installed on store shelves will automatically track every time an item is picked up, or put back. When stock on the shelf gets low, the system can automatically alert staff to bring out more product from the back room. When the storeroom is running low, the distribution center or manufacturer can be alerted automatically to send replenishments. And an inventory system based on RFID technology could alert a store manager when items are put in the wrong location by staff or customers. It would also eliminate human error at each point where goods are received or handled by staff.

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_fewer.asp7/31/2003 2:47:45 AM

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Better Merchandising and Promotions Readers on the stores shelves will provide the first extensive real-time view of customer behavior in the store. By recording how often an item is picked up, purchased or put back, retailers and their suppliers will have instant feedback on promotions. The information can be broken down by product, store, region or chain, providing the means to better tailor promotions to a specific market segment.

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_bettermerch.asp7/31/2003 2:48:00 AM

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Faster Checkout Customers hate long lines. RFID has the potential to virtually eliminate checkout lines by making it possible to scan a shopping cart full of goods in seconds. Self-service checkout systems are already catching on in the United States and Europe, and RFID has the potential to make those systems virtually foolproof.

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Lower Inventory Every company would like to reduce its inventory without jeopardizing potential sales. RFID makes this possible by providing real-time information about not just what's in the store, warehouse and factory, but what material is in the supply pipeline. Knowing with absolute certainty what goods are available and where they are located will give companies that confidence to reduce inventory along every link in the supply chain.

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Reduced Shrinkage According to the National Retail Security Survey conducted annually by the University of Florida, nearly 2 percent of total sales in United States is lost each year due to "shrinkage" - employee and customer theft, vendor fraud and administrative error. RFID can reduce vendor fraud and administrative error by automatically matching the Electronic Product Codes of items arriving or being shipped with those scheduled. It can reduce employee theft by providing real-time information about the movement of products. Perhaps RFID's biggest impact in this area, however, will be reducing shoplifting. By analyzing customer behavior at the shelf, companies will be able to spot unusual activity that could signal a theft is about to occur. Let's say the data shows customers typically pick up one or two packs of a particular item at a time. If a reader on the shelf detects that six units have been snapped up, it could alert staff of the unusual activity well before a suspected shoplifter is out the door.

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_reduced.asp7/31/2003 2:48:35 AM

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Anti-Counterfeiting Manufacturers can greatly reduce losses from counterfeiting by assigning a specific ID number to every item they produce. Any item without an RFID tag is immediately spotted as a fake. And even if a counterfeiter managed to produce phony RFID tags for counterfeit goods, retailers, police and customs officials could refer to the manufacturer's database to find that the Electronic Product Codes in question are bogus, or are duplicates of existing codes.

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Better Asset Utilization Any company that invests in hard assets wants to get the most out of them. But today's tracking systems don't provide data about individual units, so it's impossible to know how they are deployed or how they could be used more effectively. RFID changes that by providing real-time information about each unit's location and status. Companies that have implemented expensive proprietary RFID systems to track high-value assets have found that these systems can dramatically increase asset utilization.

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Better Asset Utilization Any company that invests in hard assets wants to get the most out of them. But today's tracking systems don't provide data about individual units, so it's impossible to know how they are deployed or how they could be used more effectively. RFID changes that by providing real-time information about each unit's location and status. Companies that have implemented expensive proprietary RFID systems to track high-value assets have found that these systems can dramatically increase asset utilization.

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Targeted Recalls When a product has to be recalled, a company typically has to recall all units sold, even if the problem affects only a small fraction of them. That's because there is no way to distinguish which units have the faulty part. With RFID, companies will be able to save millions of dollars by having targeted recalls because they will be able to identify which specific units have a problem.

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More Efficient Recycling Because items can be tracked from the time they are made until the time they are recycled, RFID technology has the potential to improve recycling. Items are more easily sorted. And specific instructions for recycling items that require special care can be stored in a product's PML file.

http://www.autoidcenter.org/aboutthetech_more.asp7/31/2003 2:49:29 AM

Wal-Mart to throw its weight behind RFID | CNET News.com

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Wal-Mart to throw its weight behind RFID


By Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com June 5, 2003, 2:41 PM PT Inventory management technology that uses wireless signals to track products from the factory to store shelves is set to win a major new ally next week: Wal-Mart. The retail giant is expected to throw its weight behind RFID (radio frequency identification) technology at the Retail Systems 2003 industry conference in Chicago on Tuesday. Sources familiar with the company's plans said executives will make a presentation encouraging its top 100 suppliers to start using wireless inventory tracking equipment--chips affixed to products, and scanners in warehouses--by 2005.

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Wal-Mart's endorsement of RFID gives an important boost to efforts to overhaul the world's supply chains, a makeover that could provide a shot in the arm for technology companies struggling to find buyers for the latest products and services. RFID is expensive, but backers say it offers long-term benefits that could dwarf the impact of the bar code on inventory control and distribution. RFID spending will be "bigger than...Y2K," predicted AMR Research analyst Pete Abell. "I imagine there will be a rush on investing in RFID." Suppliers are already exploring the use of RFID technology in tracking goods from the factory to warehouses. But backing from retailers is considered important because it could ultimately allow products to be tracked on store shelves. Executives from Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart are expected to aggressively push for the adoption of RFID technology during a presentation at an upcoming event for retailers, suppliers and distributors, sources said. Part of the discussion will involve the significance of standards development and its effect on the widespread adoption throughout the supply chain. Wal-Mart representatives did not return calls for comment. RFID tags have the potential to streamline and improve inventory management by allowing manufacturers to more efficiently enter and track the flow of goods. For example, RFID could let a company add a boxful of goods to its inventory systems all at once, without having to unpack the carton and scan each piece separately. An RFID scanner can pick up signals from all the chips in the sealed box, something bar code systems can't do. The cost savings could be substantial for Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer with sales of $217.8 billion in 2002. AMR's Abell estimates that Wal-Mart's costs associated with supply chain--including storing, transporting and keeping track of goods--are about 10 percent of overall sales. RFID, Abell said, could save 6 percent to 7 percent of those costs annually. Using the 2002 figures as a model, that would amount to about $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion saved. Such savings are an attractive brass ring, but installing the technology is no small task. Wal-Mart suppliers "may find it difficult to meet the early 2005 time frame," Abell said. Problems aside, chip and equipment makers are already gearing up for expected demand.

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http://news.com.com/2100-1022_3-1013767.html?tag=fd_top (1 of 3)8/2/2003 2:59:30 AM

Wal-Mart to throw its weight behind RFID | CNET News.com

"In 2004, we are going to see a broad range of serious (RFID) pilots," said Vinny Luciano, vice president of product management, mobile computing systems, at Symbol Technologies. "We'll see full-scale rollouts of RFID systems in 2005. It's not too soon to start looking at the impact of RFID on business and what the opportunities will be." In the past, Wal-Mart has helped to promote other technologies that have helped to streamline inventory and supply-chain management. Teaming with K-Mart and other retailers in the 1980s, Wal-Mart helped to promote the use of bar code scanning. A bar code standard was approved in 1973, but by 1984 only 15,000 suppliers were using codes on their products. Wal-Mart threw its weight behind bar codes in 1984, and by 1987 there were 75,000 suppliers using bar codes, according to AMR Research. As it looks to cut costs, Wal-Mart has been quicker with its support of RFID technology than with bar codes. And others are following, such as CVS, Target, Lowe's and Home Depot. RFID-related technologies such as EPC (Electronic Product Codes) are gradually gaining industry support, which should help penetration. "While still being developed, EPC will be a common method of tracking inventories and objects using RFID technology," said Ian McPherson, analyst with Wireless Data Research Group. "The two are related in the same way that bar codes and scanners are related." EPC is being developed by the Auto-ID Center and the Uniform Code Council, and many see it becoming commonplace in pallets and cases over the next five years, according to Paul Fox, a Gillette representative. Although cartons and pallets are the focus of RFID now, the technology isn't expected to truly take off until RFID tags are used on store shelves to give more up-to-date information on sales and in-store inventory. Trials are ongoing, but cost is the major hitch with such tags. Currently tags cost 50 cents to 60 cents apiece. To be practical for manufacturers to use, they'll have to drop to around 5 cents, according to Dave Krebs, an analyst with research firm VDC. "As volumes increase, prices will come down, but suppliers don't really have an incentive at this point," Krebs said. "They are footing the majority of the tag cost, and retailers are reaping a majority of the benefit." Krebs added that for the benefits of supply chain, products have to be tagged at the source: suppliers. A large retail company issuing favorable terms or promotions for suppliers could certainly encourage the adoption of the technology. "Right now, everyone involved in RFID technology is examining the cost ramifications, but we're optimistic that the price hurdles will be overcome," said Fox, who said the tags can be had already for as low as 10 cents each. "The cost of tags and readers will decrease over time." News.com's Alorie Gilbert contributed to this report.

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http://news.com.com/2100-1022_3-1013767.html?tag=fd_top (2 of 3)8/2/2003 2:59:30 AM

Wal-Mart to throw its weight behind RFID | CNET News.com

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http://news.com.com/2100-1022_3-1013767.html?tag=fd_top (3 of 3)8/2/2003 2:59:30 AM

RFID | Metafilter

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March 11, 2003


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Is RFID inherently Evil? Not a chip in your body, like EvilCorp Applied Digital Solutions proposes, but in your household products, your clothes, and your car. And it's here now. With almost no law anywhere to restrict its use. But then again, how often do you use products made or sold by Benetton, Prada, British retailer Tesco, Proctor & Gamble, and Wal-Mart? Phillips Semiconductor alone has already sold half a Billion of these chips.
posted by kablam at 1:21 PM PST [trackback] (34 comments total)

But then again, how often do you use products made or sold by Benetton, Prada, British retailer Tesco, Proctor & Gamble, and Wal-Mart? Very seldom if ever. Here's just one more reason not to.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:27 PM PST on March 11

Is RFID evil? Is privacy good?


posted by NortonDC at 1:29 PM PST on March 11

oh I don't know, the advantage to these is pretty big. Theorietically, You could go right through the checkout aisle without having to scan anything. The technology's similar to ez-pass. The aisle would have a radio scanner that automatically summed up your purchases. However,
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/24210 (1 of 13)8/2/2003 3:06:47 AM

RFID | Metafilter

they'd have to be removable, or else anyone could tell what kind of underpants you were wearing on the street. Was that ever in an Orwell novel?
posted by condour75 at 1:31 PM PST on March 11

Many libraries are looking into using RFID tags, which would allow people to simply walk out of the library with books, rather than going through the laborious checking-in and checking-out process. What an improvement that will be.
posted by waldo at 1:31 PM PST on March 11

The question was "Is RFID inherently Evil? I say NO. Like most anything - it can be used for good or bad. I just hope they clearly label anything that contains one (kinda like a kosher symbol on certain foods). I'd love to hear from some Luddites, but I don't know that they post here too often.
posted by stormy at 1:37 PM PST on March 11

How close does a scanner need to get to them to pick up the signal? using energy from the passive scan can't be enough to create boost a signal more than inches or feet.. and from what i've seen, these RF tags aren't as small as a grain of sand, more like a pencil eraser head. like you can't find that and rip it off of your tag, much like you do annoying t-shirt labels that chafe your neck... *runs to the hills and shoots himself*
posted by shadow45 at 1:39 PM PST on March 11

They say that there are no plans to stockpile customer info, yeah, like corporations would ever do anything like that.
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/24210 (2 of 13)8/2/2003 3:06:47 AM

RFID | Metafilter

So when do they start keeping tabs on your credit card info and centrally processing your purchases, and what you wear each day, who you give gifts to and what they get, etc. and we end up with more fucking spam, more telemarketing calls at 7 AM on Saturday, more junk mail, more shitty products marketed particularly for us, etc. great. The library thing sounds even better, like Information Awareness isn't going to subpoena that info at the drop of a fucking hat!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:42 PM PST on March 11

And here I thought libraries were trying to protect the privacy of your reading habits from the nefarious types. Anybody with the right receiver and ID code translator will know that you've just checked out "The Anarchist's Cookbook", a copy of the Constitution Of The US, Kaczynski's Manifesto, "The Satanist's Bible", and Erica Jong's "Fear Of Flying". (you terrorist pervert!) There's nothing inherantly evil in this technology, but are we as consumers really ignorant enough to think that RFID will NOT be used in the cause of "National Security"? I don't care if WalMart tracks my buying habits...I don't shop there enough to have a habit to track. But there is nothing on the books to stop authoritarians from tracking my purchases, reading matter, and movements. I, for one, believe that they would do just that.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:54 PM PST on March 11

I dunno. It seems that RFID's could increase productivity and make shopping an easier experience. The current technology is pretty passive, requiring a reader to be fairly close to the tag. The tags themselves can only hold so much information. Problems arise 10 years from now as the technology improves.

http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/24210 (3 of 13)8/2/2003 3:06:47 AM

RFID | Metafilter

This is an example of how legislation needs to occur before RFID's are in common use. I think the scarier portion of the post points out the the use of RFID is currently unregulated. A problem of modern technology is that it often evolves in a moral/legal vacuum. Perhaps we should start trying to make our leaders (congress people, MP's, what-not dictators, etc) aware of our concerns before our concerns grow up and become realities.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:55 PM PST on March 11

Well if they're already tracking all those things, the question is, does RFID make it easier to do than John can do by subpoenaing your library or credit card record? If your library is already computerized, then there's already a "file" on you. The only advantage RFID would create is that the Man could stand out on the street with a scanner, theoretically, and see what you were reading, then follow you. So again -- they should be removable, or read once. Like Elwood says. some regulations would be a good idea. Either legal or contractual (read walmart's privacy policy before shopping) But I don't think this technology is inherently evil.
posted by condour75 at 2:04 PM PST on March 11

The tags themselves can only hold so much information. The article states that the tags can potentially hold much more information than they are now programmed with. How difficult is it to boost a signal or to place tracking stations at intervals around say Manhattan. How difficult would it be to follow a specific signal that someone knows was purchased with a specific credit card? How about they put these in guns? Then bars, banks, schools, convenience stores can track when a gun enters the premises, cops can trace which specific gun was used
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in a crime, who bought it, etc...


posted by Pollomacho at 2:05 PM PST on March 11

The tags don't need to hold information, they just need a unique number and all the info is in a database somewhere. When the pound finds a dog with an RFID in it, the scanner just returns a value e.g. "2902089593" and that value is put into the pet tracking database, revealing all the information the owner put into the form. What I don't like about this whole "RFID Everywhere!" fad is that the manufacturers are going out of their way to embed this stuff in the product itself AND the retailer could care less about disabling the chip after the sale. That's a real privacy concern. Why not make the things die after sale or peel them off like current anti-theft tag? Sure, its nice to have a tag that will never peel off, or get peeled off by a thief, but the privacy issue is being ignored on a level that makes me uncomfortable. Ignoring tracking by law enforcement, government, etc do we really want a GAP billboard yelling, "That sweater is 15 months old, you unfashionable slob! Go buy a new one." Or more realistically, "Hello Mr. xxxx, I noticed your sweaters have gotten old, we have a sale on...." Minority Report-style.
posted by skallas at 2:13 PM PST on March 11

The tags don't have to hold much information, just enough to point to all the rest of the information. The tags broadcast IDs absolutely unique to that particular instance of that piece of product that you bought, that particular single one. Buy it with a check, credit card, check card, or a supermarket customer card and you have just connected the dots between that radio transmitter and yourself.
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All it takes is the unique ID on the chip. All the rest happens behind the scenes. Remember when they said web cookies couldn't be used to track surfing because they were only readable by the server that sent them? That became moot once outfits like Doubleclick centralized ad serving. The same vulnerability exists here. Only with real cookies, and everything else you need to survive. But then again, I'm just a database guy in a US government intel outfit, so what would I know about data privacy concerns, right?
posted by NortonDC at 2:13 PM PST on March 11

Maybe they can link then to people's TIVO's so that wherever you go the sales people will already know that you are a 26 year old strait male that prefers his porn soft core and involving cheerleaders and his tee-shirts blue, long sleeved and washed in mountain spring tide. I don't want my e-mail address on my MeFi profile, like I want the Gap to know that I came in twice last week!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:29 PM PST on March 11

Is RFID inherently Evil? YES, yes... and yes. The more we take people out of the equation, the faster we... well, whatever. It's evil.
posted by Witty at 2:37 PM PST on March 11

do we really want a GAP billboard yelling, "That sweater is 15 months old! Go buy a new one." Hell yes. That is about the coolest thing I've heard of recently. 1) Privacy concerns: Since people with something to hide
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will avoid broadcasting that by carrying around these tags, it becomes worthless as a government monitoring tool. Despite the obvious talking points this provides for privacy fetishists, this technology reveals less private information about you than using a credit card or surfing the net. Nonissue. 2) Since the tags can be removed, companies will have little incentive to develop systems to read them and then bombard us with ads. Non-issue.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:37 PM PST on March 11

Speed and convenience are the advantages that will be touted to the consumer, but the real value is to the retailer and the manufacturer, lowering costs in the supply chain. So, corporate profits go up, my privacy is gone, but hey, I'll shave 18 seconds off my checkout time at Walmart. Is there a shelf-life for these things? That is, how many times can they get pinged before they burn out? Can there be an expiry date built in, or a set number of pings before it dies? (Although even then you have to trust the manufacturers to play by the rules and build in the expiry mechanism.) Since the tags can be removed, companies will have little incentive to develop systems to read them I think it's a little tougher than that. With clothes, for example, what's stopping the manufacturer from weaving them into the fabric? Seems to me that the tags can been deeply enough embedded that you'll have to damage the product to remove them.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:42 PM PST on March 11

Pollomacho, check out the list of brands on P&G's Web


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site. I'll bet you use products from at least one of them. There's over 300, including Bounce, Charmin, Cheer, Clairol, Cover Girl, Crest, Dawn, Downy, Era, Fixodent, Folgers, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Ivory, Joy, Luvs, Max Factor, Mr. Clean, Nice 'n Easy, Noxzema, Olay, Old Spice, Pampers, Pantene, Pepto-Bismol, Pert Plus, Physique, Pringles, Puffs, Sunny Delight, Swiffer, Tampax, Vix, Vidal Sassoon, and Zest, among others.
posted by hyperizer at 2:43 PM PST on March 11

Doesn't anyone know how to disable/remove these things?


posted by eustacescrubb at 2:47 PM PST on March 11

Oh darn! I forgot the *juiciest* one of all! Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005 But hey! It's for a good cause! Like, to defeat terrorism or it's for the children or something...
posted by kablam at 2:48 PM PST on March 11

A radio frequency pulse at the same frequency as the reader device uses but at much higher power would probably burn them out pretty quick. Hmmm... the opportunities for mischief capture the imagination... toss the local Wal-mart into chaos by killing all their RFID tags. Or even better, broadcast a low-power signal from outside the store, set off their anti-theft detectors.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:53 PM PST on March 11

"and you have just connected the dots between that radio transmitter and yourself" Since I can take the tag out, and I can buy the item with
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cash anyway, this seems like a dubious dot connection.


posted by y6y6y6 at 3:03 PM PST on March 11

You could put transmitters/recievers around your house, then you could see a 3d map of your house with the correct location of all your shit. I think Bruce Sterling did a short story on tech like this.
posted by Iax at 4:45 PM PST on March 11

Theoretically, You could go right through the checkout aisle without having to scan anything. The technology's similar to ez-pass. The aisle would have a radio scanner that automatically summed up your purchases. But how would the scanner tell which items you were buying, and which ones you brought into the store? If I buy a pack of gum at one shop and carry it in my pocket into a second shop, how do I avoid be re-charged for it? Many libraries are looking into using RFID tags, which would allow people to simply walk out of the library with books, rather than going through the laborious checking-in and checking-out process. What an improvement that will be. Well, it wouldn't be quite that easy. They still need to connect the books with the borrower somehow. The only savings would be in the "laborious" process of scanning the barcodes.
posted by greengirl at 4:49 PM PST on March 11

Does anyone here live in Tulsa, OK? If so, YOUR ENTIRE CITY is being wired to detect these chips, WHEREVER THEY ARE.

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This is the "cradle to grave" tracking. And though they harp on the "three foot" limit, eventually, as soon as inventory enters the city it will be tracked, through warehouses, retailers, and the homes of consumers, all the way to the city dump. It's also happening right now at the San Francisco airport, the University of Connecticut, Rockerfeller University, Sears, K-Mart, Gillette, Philip Morris (whatever they are calling themselves now), International Paper and Westvaco Corp., the nation's second-largest supplier of cartons and packaging. But hey, it's only three feet, any more than that and it won't work, right?
posted by kablam at 6:32 PM PST on March 11

From the article: "Because the ID is embedded in the clothes ... any item returned to the store automatically reenters the inventory. " I'll be sure to wear several pair of underwear, pants, and shirts next time I'm in Walmart. I'll walk in and out of the door a half-dozen times. They won't know wtf is happening to their shelf stock!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:27 PM PST on March 11

>>and you have just connected the dots between >>that radio transmitter and yourself" > >Since I can take the tag out, and I can buy the item with >cash anyway, this seems like a dubious dot connection. >posted by y6y6y6 So how will you know you've gotten all the tags? And perhaps you missed this from kablam: Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005
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posted by NortonDC at 9:59 PM PST on March 11

Man, all I can say is I hope you people never use a credit card to buy anything, never visit a library, never use a cell phone, and have TEMPESTed your computers. Otherwise I think you're kidding yourselves on how much someone could find out if they had the access even today. Hell, I wish the things had a little better range than they do, I just about have to beat the receiver with my card to get into the parking lot (I'm pretty sure the card uses either these chips or something pretty similar). It'd be nice if the thing had the range to pick it up without rolling the window down.
posted by piper28 at 10:02 PM PST on March 11

It's not called tempest anymore.


posted by NortonDC at 5:38 AM PST on March 12

Pollomacho, check out the list of brands on P&G's Web site. I'll bet you use products from at least one of them. I live deep in the city on the east coast, there is a Whole Foods less than a block from my house, I'll be worried when they start putting them in the recycled, organic hemp, algae and henna all-natural hippie shampoo. Y6, I'm starting to think YOU might be working for THEM! Seriously, I know I sound like a kook, but I'm just fucking sick of being electronically monitored in everything I do I'm about ready to move to a cave and live naked. I despise advertising (TV, print, you name it), sleazy salespeople, infomercials, spam, MTV bullshit, junk mail and telemarketing which I now lump in to ONE category of evil. This thing is such a huge tool for those assholes that I despise it too.
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posted by Pollomacho at 7:50 AM PST on March 12

Man, all I can say is I hope you people never use a credit card to buy anything, never visit a library, never use a cell phone, and have TEMPESTed your computers. Otherwise I think you're kidding yourselves on how much someone could find out if they had the access even today. I'm not kidding myself, I know that they are reading that shit and I fucking hate the bastards! I don't want to make it EASIER for people to read my shit! Leave me the hell alone I don't want your crap (by the way I don't have a cell phone, mainly because I don't want to be bothered when I don't want to be bothered, but of course I have to listen to everyone else's conversations and ringers don't I?!?)! Anyone know if Ted Kazinski's shack is on the market? I'm not looking to blow anyone up, I'd just like to get away for a while.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:56 AM PST on March 12

You could get around this by swapping your stuff or money with friends, relatives or even total strangers, which ought to utterly confuse the system. Mail your GAP sweater across the globe for some really creative disinformation! I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to consumer manipulation though - I even dumped my supermarket loyalty card so they couldn't keep a record of what I buy.
posted by tabbycat at 11:51 AM PST on March 12

I love these sabotage ideas! The swapping, the 12 pairs of underwear to Wal Mart (they should all be different kinds, styles and genders too, just to further fuck with things), the frying the system from the parking lot! Anymore great
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ideas? What about rare earth magnets? Could I carry one of those into a Gap and pass it over several stacks of, say, pants and blow all their chips?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:09 PM PST on March 12

tabbycat's got it - if you can't avoid the system altogether, flood it with misleading data. Buy things and give them as gifts, get EVERY supermarket card and use them all at random, lie about your phone number and zip code to radio shack when you buy batteries, fill out every survey response card with the wrong information, stick chips from new products onto old products and give them to Good Will... For every lock, there is a key.
posted by UncleFes at 2:16 PM PST on March 12

Older Naked as a Jaybird...

Freedom of speech at Citrus Co... Newer

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