The Perspective 
Monday, 07 August 2006
Another columnist kindly responded to my last question: Why don’t we convert price checkers into self-checkout terminals in store aisles? Read his answer in a moment. First, read this month’s question.
For years we’ve been told that RFID, also known as radio frequency identification, is about to permeate the market. But is RFID ready for widespread deployment? While a lot of optimism surrounds the technology, there are some concerns.
At a recent security conference in Las Vegas, a graduate student demonstrated the ability to steal data from RFID tags that companies have said could only be cracked by their proprietary readers. The researcher, Melanie Rieback of Vrije University in The Netherlands, and her helpers promised to make public the schematic and computer code for building a portable device that reads RFID codes and tags.
She calls it the RFID Guardian, on the premise that a person can use it to monitor the RFID chips carried on his or her person – in passports and the like. Another way to consider it might be as the RFID Assailant, if one uses it to snag data from other people’s RFID chips.
Rieback is far from the first scholar to crack a code. When a team of researchers cracked the DES code used to encrypt ATM data, they spent almost $250,000 and three days computing 88 billion different code combinations needed to crack the single encryption standard– a much grander undertaking than the handheld box Rieback’s team can use to scan RFID chips without the owners’ consent. (Triple DES is the remedy.)
Rieback also takes credit for writing the first RFID virus: a code that when written onto an RFID tag can make its way through middleware and infect a database. Since the same database is accessed when making and reading tags, all new tags would contain the infected code, if the database is breached.  
A vice president for one of the world’s biggest RFID innovators told me that item-by-item RFID tracking is not likely to be adopted by retailers because it’s too expensive.
Retailers frequently talk about the 5-cent RFID tag: Once RFID tags cost a nickel each, it could be feasible to put them on everything, just like price tags. For now, however, retailers still quibble over the price.
So, I ask you to tell me – is RFID ready for widespread deployment? E-mail me your answer: .
The answer to last month’s question.
Wirespring columnist Bill Gerba kindly used his column to respond to mine last month:
“…for any kind of in-the-aisle checkout system. Small specialty retailers wouldn't seem to need the extra checkout locations, and department stores already use scattered checkout stations (or sales reps) as a means to scan and de-badge purchased merchandise. So, limiting the argument to just grocers and the big-box guys, there would appear to be (at least) three critical factors that must be addressed before in-the-aisle checkout could ever take off...”
To read his reasoning, click here.
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  

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