In the latest RFID news, IBM has announced that they are planning on inserting RFID chips into Italian scooters and diapers in order to track their movements. IBM will implement this, most likely, via their new WebSphere RFID Information Center , a new software that allows multiple companies to log and share data from RFID tags.
Honda Italia Industriale, which sold 12.7 million scooters last year, plans to use RFID chips and IBM software to track motorcycle parts and tools circulating within its manufacturing plant in Atessa, Italy.
This, Honda believes, will lead to a more efficient plant because they can easily be tracked throughout the warehouse.
Pliant, based in Schaumburg, Ill., will sell a new RFID-embedded plastic wrap to consumer-goods companies that want to detect any tampering of their products in transit from manufacturer to distributor. Pliant is using IBM’s software to keep track of RFID-marked cargo–everything from cereal boxes to diapers–in the warehouse.
Though Pliant wants to keep track of tampering  , there is no word on whether the RFID tags will be disabled before the unsuspecting public purchases items embedded with the tags.
These two companies add themselves to the new, and evolving, technology that IBM hopes will be a boon for businesses. Boeing already tracks their parts via RFID but many retail outlets are still hesitant to use the new technology due to its cost and the lingering questions of consumer’s privacy, such as those that were asked about the Nike iPod.
Other companies already using RFID in their products include US Passports and discs that aim to prevent piracy. Ritek, the world’s largest DVD and CD maker, introduced these discs through their subsidiary, U-Tech in September 2006 in conjunction with IPICO, who makes the RFID chips for the discs. This affects all discs, stamped and recordable.
The technology, which can also be used for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs, will allow movie studios to remotely track individual discs as they travel from factories to retail shelves to consumers’ homes.
Home DVD players will eventually be able to check on the chip embedded in a disc, and refuse to play discs which are copied or played in the ‘wrong’ geographical region, the companies behind the technology expect.
“This technology holds the potential to protect the intellectual property of music companies, film studios, gaming and software developers worldwide,” said Gordon Yeh, chief executive of Ritek Corporation.
RFID readers will then be built-in to home DVD players to extend the anti-copying technology into homes as part of a digital rights management system.
Again, while it is important to note that having the ability to track your product from warehouse to stores is a good idea, once a person purchases CDs and DVDs, they should actually own the product. What this does is create a system whereby you are only leasing the product, to be used in your own home, in a manner, that someone else dictates.
It also locks you into one specific system that you are able to use to watch your purchased product. Your DVD player will perform security tests to locate the RFID chip. This will be done at the hardware level instead of the current system of software and drivers. If it does not locate the chip, you will not be able to use the disc.
Ritek believes that this will eliminate piracy altogether. It may, but I will believe it when I see it. There will always be a way to copy or record something. It might take a bit of time, but we have seen protection scheme after protection scheme broken. Firmware has been modified for years and, if this new technology requires firmware, it will be cracked. The most recent story is that the HD-DVD restrictions have been cracked and pirated copies of Serenity are available via bittorent.
GM and Toyota have also used RFID tags in the past and still had problems with theft. Nissan is also implementing RFID. Even if the data is encrypted, if all you need is a copy, then that is easy to do. You can be on your way in your new car with a working copy of a key or ID.
Though tracking shipments is a good use of RFID tags, placing them on individual packages presents dangers. Not all tags are passive and, in many warehouses, tags can be read from several meters away using standard issue readers. Several meters away is still far enough away that you won’t notice someone reading your tags when you leave the supermarket. Once you reach home and use the products, all a person needs to do is pass by your garbage cans with a reader and, over time, can account for the types of items you like to buy. There is no need to for them to dig through your trash and get dirty because a brisk walk will gather all the information that they will need for whatever nefarious purpose they can think of.
IPICO claims that its RFID tags can be read from at least six metres away, and at a rate of thousands of tags per minute. The passive chips require no battery, as they are powered by the energy in radio waves from the RFID reader.
With this reality, it will not be hard to read the RFID tags for whatever possibility a person can imagine. By continuing to label consumers as the bad guys, much of the RFID technology will be used to prevent normal people from doing normal things with items they purchased and legally own. These protections aren’t even used to combat piracy, as Hollywood has finally admitted. What will happen is the elimination of fair use for media, tracking of individual’s personal habits, and abuses of the system. The question is, are those in Hollywood and Washington going to accept this as they watch their sales dwindle further because Joe Citizen is no longer purchasing their products or will Joe Citizen blindly accept yet another control telling them how to live?
I suggest you do what I have done; purchase several cheap DVD players, get a lot of blank media, keep your mouth shut, and don’t ever upgrade to this crap idea that those that sell you products should tell you how to use them.