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RFID-Embedded Police Badges Debut In August

There's another crime-fighting weapon being added to law enforcement's arsenal, and it's not what you'd expect. Along with handcuffs, guns, and nightsticks, cops' uniforms will soon include badges with RFID chips.

V.H. Blackinton & Co. Inc. has developed a badge for law enforcement and government agencies with an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chip it plans to launch in August, company officials said Friday.

The SmartShield system validates badges and verifies the wearer. The package comprises Blackinton metal badges equipped with RFID chips, and Enforcement Identification (Eid) software that tracks information on each badge in a department’s inventory.

Blackinton has worked on the application since 2003. Research began in 2004, and development and manufacturing last year. The product will launch in August.

South Carolina Highway Patrol, Brookline Massachusetts Police Department, and Louisiana State Capitol Police are testing SmartShield, said John Domurad, director of research and development at Blackinton. Furthest along on deployment, the South Carolina Highway Patrol began September testing badges in the field. The agency deployed the software earlier this year. Next, deploying Datastrip Inc.'s DSVII-SC readers running Windows CE.Net in the field, Domurad said.

The DSVII-SC reader can communicate over wireless LAN or cellular networks, has biometric capabilities, and reads PDF bar codes, magnetic strips and RFID chips. It also can retrieve data from on-board memory or an external database via wireless 802.11 or Bluetooth technology, said Stuart Tucker, customer and sales support manager at Datastrip.

Blackinton's application uses 125 kilohertz or a 13.56 megahertz RFID chip. Each encoded with an identification number and law enforcement agency number specific to the division and embedded into the badge made from ferrous metals. "The chip is embedded into the badge, not attached," Domurad said. "The chip becomes inoperable if someone tries to remove."

Getting the chip to transmit through metal hasn't been easy. Metal reflect radio frequency signals. Consumer goods companies adhering to supply-chain mandates from Best Buy Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. have struggled to get radio frequency signals to transmit through aluminum and metal, such as cans filled with vegetables.

Domurad declined to provide details on how the embedded chip transmits the signal. "Telling you the specifics would be a bit like giving you the formula for Coca Cola," he said. "All I can tell you is it works. But the same configuration doesn't necessarily work in all badge styles."

The standalone software application integrates with any sequel-based record management system and can run parallel with access control systems.

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