RFID: is the tag tipping?
Today there are two reasons to be anxious about RFID: that it may live up to expectations and that it may not.
Civil libertarians are concerned about a wide deployment of RFID and the security of data on tags, and with reason it seems.
In the recent edition of PC Pro, Paul Trotter looks at their concerns. Security experts working with Dutch TV quickly intercepted and cracked encrypted transmissions from a prototype passport’s RFID tag. This allowed access to personal information stored on the tag—a worrying development for the US, where RFID-tagged passports will be available in the next few months.
Food and drinks manufacturers, on the other hand, are concerned that RFID may not be the panacea it seemed. On liquids and metals passive tag read rates can be lower than 40 percent—hardly the basis for comprehensive supply chain management. Similar problems are found in healthcare settings, where signals from tags can also be distorted by the babble of equipment emitting at radio frequency.
Recent enthusiasm for RFID was catalysed by the falling price of passive tags signalling the vision of cheap, ubiquitous tagging. Active RFID tags carrying their own power source could address some of the implementation issues, but they are far more expensive.
As one of a spectrum of wireless techniques, I believe RFID has a role in healthcare. But what role? A few years ago, Gartner placed RFID at the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" on its hype cycle. I think passive RFID is now tipping into the "Trough of Disillusionment", the precursor to new technologies finding their level of practicability. We will see where it ends up.