IBM's Privacy-Friendly RFID Tag Ready For Production - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Hardware & Infrastructure

IBM's Privacy-Friendly RFID Tag Ready For Production

IBM granted the first manufacturing license for its RFID Clipped Tag, designed to let consumers remove RFID antennas from clothing, prescription drugs, and other items they've just purchased.

IBM thinks it's got an answer to privacy concerns about RFID tags. It's announcing Wednesday the first manufacturing agreement for its Clipped Tag, which was designed with an antenna that's as easy to remove as tearing off a piece of paper.

IBM and its first manufacturing licensee, Marnlen RFID, don't yet have any business customers for the tags, but they're talking to retailers in the U.S., Canada and Europe about pilot tests, says Paul Moskowitz, a scientist with IBM Research and one of the tag's inventors. The idea is to let retail, consumer goods and drug companies tap into the value of RFID while sidestepping privacy concerns. Consumers could remove the antennas once items are purchased. IBM has even done an informational YouTube video on the tag.

RFID tags can be read by up to 30 feet away without a direct scan, creating security risks. Thieves with RFID scanners might lay in wait to rob purchasers of expensive merchandise. Scanners might be used to track the whereabouts of people carrying tagged items.

On the other hand, RFID tags are valuable for retailers. Unlike a bar code scanner, clerks don't have to do a direct scan on an RFID tag; RFID readers can scan up to 1,000 tags at one time. A shopper could go to a checkout counter with 10 pairs of jeans and have them all scanned in an instant. Yet if a clerk destroyed the tag at checkout, all data regarding the item is destroyed, which would complicate processes such as returns.

With the clipped chip (prototype chips for garments are four inches wide and two inches high), a consumer could remove the long-range antenna with one rip. "It's like opening a potato chip bag or a package of ketchup," says Moskowitz. He acknowledges that some consumer education will be required.

But Katherine Albrecht, an outspoken RFID opponent and co-author of the book "Spychips: How Major Corporations And Government Plan To Track Your Every Purchase And Watch Your Every Move," isn't convinced the Clipped Tag will ensure privacy, particularly since item-level tagging would lead to the creation of an infrastructure that captures such finite data. Once that infrastructure is in place, Albrecht says, people would find a way to misuse it. "If you can get the camel's nose in the tent, the rest of the camel is likely to follow," she says.

IBM and other RFID developers face another obstacle: Cost. Although prices on RFID tags are expected to eventually decline, many consider them still too high for item-level tagging.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
News
Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/13/2020
Commentary
Where Cloud Spending Might Grow in 2021 and Post-Pandemic
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/19/2020
Slideshows
The Ever-Expanding List of C-Level Technology Positions
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  11/10/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Why Chatbots Are So Popular Right Now
In this IT Trend Report, you will learn more about why chatbots are gaining traction within businesses, particularly while a pandemic is impacting the world.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll