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Monday, December 02, 2002
Am I Paranoid Or Is That A Bug In My Shorts ?
We have all been wondering why more "regular consumers" have not heard
about Auto-ID radio frequency identification and tracking technology. Why
doesn't the whole world know about these plans to plant tiny tracking
devices in the products we buy? It's not that the press hasn't been
covering it -- they have, but as a tech story, not a consumer story.
Here is a compendium of news stories from the last two years. Each of the
references cited is an actual quote from the press. The quoted comments
can be found verbatim at the websites listed. Much of the information
cited in our overview article
(http://www.nocards.org/AutoID/overview.shtml) came from these sources.
The greatest technological revolution to shape the consumer goods industry
since the appearance of the barcode has begun. Ironically, it couples a
technology that has been around for decades--radio frequency
identification -- with highly miniaturized computers that will enable
products to be identified and tracked at any point along the supply chain.
The new technological wave is a development of the Auto-ID Center at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which was established in
"The fundamental problem in tracing and counting is identification,"
explains Kevin Ashton, director of the Auto-ID Center. "If we can't
identify a thing, then we can't count or track it".... Ashton began
championing the idea of embedding tiny wireless computers in nearly every
The MIT-based Auto-ID Center [is] a consortium of academic and industry
scientists seeking to replace bar codes with a system that tracks
manufactured products with pervasive grids of readers in warehouses,
trucks, stores, and the home. Once the infrastructure is operational,
companies will be able to determine the whereabouts of all their products,
all the time.
The ultimate goal is to put a radio tag on virtually every manufactured
item, each tracked by a network of millions of readers in shops,
factories, trucks, warehouses and homes.
From the Auto-ID (MIT) website:
Auto-ID technology will change the world by merging bits and atoms
together to form one seamless network that interacts with the real world
in real time. Physical objects will have embedded intelligence that will
allow them to communicate with each other and with businesses and
consumers. Auto-ID technology offers an automated, numeric system of smart
objects that revolutionizes the way we manufacture, sell, and buy
An Electronic Product Code (ePC) is embedded onto individual products and
physical objects on memory chips known as "smart tags" that connect
objects to the Internet. Auto-ID technology will allow the Internet to
extend to everyday objects. Everything will be connected in a dynamic,
automated supply chain that joins businesses and consumers together in a
mutually beneficial relationship.
Consumers, businesses, and products will interact in a dynamic cycle of
computer bits and human atoms that will understand each other. Auto-ID
technology will create order and balance in a chaotic world.
Auto-ID technology and will forever change global business. Companies who
understand what's coming will benefit dramatically.
The ePC (electronic product code) is a numbering scheme that can provide
unique ID for any physical object in the world -- each pack of cigarettes,
can of soda, light bulb or package of razor blades has a separate ID
The ePC code... goes way beyond identifying products. The ePC assigns a
unique number to every single item that rolls off a manufacturing line.
(e.g. Every single bottle of soda would have its own unique ePC
number).... It is capable of uniquely numbering every item produced on the
planet well into the future.
The creation of an algorithm for uniquely identifying a commercial product
by its "smart" electronic tag marks a crucial step towards realizing a
physically linked world; it provides the basic infrastructure needed to
support advanced versions of global supply-chain management.
RFID tags are built into objects like food, clothes, drugs or auto-parts,
and read by devices in the environment, e.g., in shelves, floors, doors.
[snip] Electronic tags, when coupled to a reader network, allow
continuous tracking and identification of physical resources.
Tagged pill bottles in a medicine cabinet could allow doctors to monitor
patient compliance with prescriptions, remotely.
The new system will be applied to almost any manufactured item, from
foodstuffs to washing machines. Each product will in effect carry its own
unique "messages" around with it in the form of an embedded chip. For
example, a carton of spaghetti could "tell" a truck to deliver it, "tell"
a shop that it had been bought, and then "tell" a microwave how to cook
it. " 'Intelligent' and fully traceable products could become a low cost
reality within the next few years," said Mr. Ashton (in early 2001)
The cost of the embedded ID units has fallen dramatically over the past
two years, making the implementation of the technology more practical and
cost-effective than ever before. The chips, which cost $1 in 1998, have
dropped to less than 5 cents each and are predicted to cost less than 1
cent by 2004.
At the center of the Auto-ID system is the RF ID tag. [snip]
The Auto-ID center's Ashton describes the tag as "somewhere between the
size of a grain of sand and a speck of dust."
"We'll put a radio frequency ID tag on everything that moves in the North
American supply chain," says Mr. Van Fleet [of International Paper]. He
said anywhere from 2 percent to 7 percent of products are stolen or
misplaced during distribution, and the new smart tags will let companies
like his track them down on a per-item basis. [snip] Power Paper Ltd. of
Israel is collaborating with International Paper to combine its flat,
flexible battery with a microchip that can be put into interactive
packages. International Paper estimates that more than 500 million smart
packages will be used within three years to sell everything from French
fries to electronics. Says Baruch Levanon, head of Power Paper, "Most of
the technology for smart packages already exists. We just need to
Tulsa, Oklahoma is the site of this summer's (2001) most innovative
experiment in inventory management....The Auto-ID Center is wiring the
entire city with analog radio-frequency gear that can track packages
equipped with microchips. The system will make it possible to track
inventory as it moves from point to point across the city. "We're putting
RFID [radio-frequency identification] chips on everything that moves."
[snip] The Auto-ID Center's vision is for [product] identification numbers
[to] be transmitted by RFID tags to a global network of receivers along
the supply chain-at airports, seaports, highways, distribution centers,
and retail stores.
..the widespread implementation of RFID technology could mean a leap
forward, owing to the ability of RFID tags to be read without actually
being in view. Bar code labels, by comparison, must be seen in order to be
P&G would know exactly when and what consumers are buying.
Hitachi Europe is looking at the banknote market. The company's
Information Systems Group has developed a smart tag chip called Minimum
Meu, which measures 0.3mm square and is just 60 microns thick: about the
thickness of a human hair. "A banknote is about 100 microns thick, so the
chip could be put inside one," says Peter Jones, the company's pre-sales
manager. Mass-production of the new chip will start within a year. It has
"attracted a lot of interest and will be a very cost-effective solution,"
says Mr Jones. [snip]
In China smart tags are being developed to identify people for tax and
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. 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.
Kevin Ashton, executive director of the Auto-ID Center, concedes there's a
Brave New World feel to it all, but adds, "The dollar value of this
opportunity, well . . . there's so many zeros on the end of it that it's
hard to make people believe you."
tml but the link has expired)
Ashton acknowledges that consumers and businesses alike might be very
uncomfortable with a system in which the police could find out detailed
information about everything in a car's trunk without opening it.
One of the greatest challenges facing the creators of such an
infrastructure will be finding ways to allow consumers to opt in or out of
the system as it becomes more pervasive. "It's not clear how that's going
to happen," [says Sanjay E. Sarma, an MIT professor and co-director of the
Auto-ID Center] "But it's important if companies want to prevent a public
backlash against these systems."
(originally at http://www.india-today.com/ctoday/20010616/marvels.html)
"Any one piece of information"--cell phone records, purchasing records,
car location--"is not that damning or intrusive. But if you put them
together, you've got my life," [security researcher David] Holtzman said.
"It's very hard to hide things when you have that level of analysis."
Even if these uses aren't what retailers and manufacturers have in mind,
technology has a way of creeping into other domains, Holtzman added.
Transponders for driving through electronic tollbooths started as a
convenience to drivers but now are used in combination with timing
analysis to send out speeding tickets, for example.
The United States Department of Defense and the United States Postal
Service are among the 85 sponsor companies and organizations funding the
Auto-ID research project. For a partial list of donors who have
contributed a minimum of $300,000 to the project, see:
To keep tabs on Auto-ID, subscribe to Auto-ID's monthly newsletter at
Search engine advice: If you plan to run your own search on this
technology, use the phrase "Auto-ID Center," not "Auto-ID." (The latter
is a generic phrase for any contactless ID system, including barcodes).
CASPIAN - Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering A
national consumer organization opposing supermarket "loyalty" cards and
other retail surveillance schemes since 1999
We encourage you to duplicate and distribute this message to others.
To subscribe to: CASPIAN Newsletter, just follow this link:
If you have difficulty with the web-based interface, you may also
subscribe or unsubscribe via email by writing to:
posted by Vetzine