RFID or Radio Frequency Identification, also called "smart labels", in it's simpliest definition, are tags or intelligent bar codes that can "talk" to a network system. It can give the relevant information or data incorporated on a particular product or object using radio waves. The difference between a bar code and RFID is its simultaneous communication and communication distance capability from the reader.
An RFID tag contains at least two parts: First, the chip or integrated circuit that stores and processes information, modulates and demodulates the radio frequency (RF) signal, and other necessary functions; Second is an antenna that receives and transmits the signal into an RFID tag reader.
At a basic level, each RFID tag works in the same way:
* Data stored within an RFID tag's microchip waits to be read.
* The tag's antenna receives electromagnetic energy from an RFID reader's antenna.
* Using power from its internal battery or power harvested from the reader's electromagnetic field, the tag sends radio waves back to the reader.
* The reader picks up the tag's radio waves and interprets the frequencies as meaningful data.
Today, in our country and in most parts of the world, RFID is a newly trending technology which gives fear to a lot of organizations and individuals. As with many technologies, people fear what they don't understand. Some of which are exaggerations, some can be considered paranoia, but some may also be justified.
The wide applications of this cutting-edge technology has been around us for some time now. Practical example of the many types of RFID in our country has already been in the private warehouses, race timing such as Marathon like the recently held Kenny's Open Urbanite 2009, e-pass in NLEX, and recently (August 2009) in our e-passports (yes, our passports are now powered with RFID technology).
People have not feared nor revolted against the implementation of this technology to these applications. But just recently, after the announcement of LTO about the RFID tagging this coming October 1, 2009, a lot of violent reactions have surfaced for the fear of the violation of people's privacy rights. I have read some forums discussing this development, and I can say, about 60% to 70% of the reactions and comments for the RFID project are negative. Other people responds positively though they still have questions regarding privacy, security against tampering and hacking, and effectiveness in achieving the project's goals.
Benefits of the LTO-RFID
“The RFID technology will revolutionize land transportation in the Philippines. This is a great first step in putting order on our streets,” - LTO Assistant Secretary Arturo LomibaoTo better understand the goal and purpose of this project, we must know what are the benefits of embedding an RFID in our vehicle. First and foremost, an IT system exists and develops for the betterment of a society. At the same time, these developments have its underlying risks and disadvantages too.
I will not discuss the details of these listed few benefits and disadvantages. The following paragraphs and statements are also according to my own understanding about the technology and not the project owner's or the LTO's point of view.
for Government Agencies (such as LTO, PNP)
* Ease and efficient registration process of vehicles.
* Real-time and accurate information about a vehicle.
* Reduction of vehicular-related crimes such as carnapping.
* Fast and easy identification of hot-listed or malicious vehicles.
for the Public and Motorists
* Security of having a vehicle identified to the rightful owner.
* Security of having the right components (Engine, Chassis) to the correct vehicle.
* Reduction of unscrupulous and colorum vehicles.
Data Embedding and Privacy
In contrast to what most people fear, only the relevant information about a vehicle is loaded into the RFID tag. We must understand that an RFID tag has a limit to it's data storage capacity. That means, not all of the information about a vehicle, or vehicle owner can be integrated into the RFID chip.
The most common information that can be loaded into the RFID are the basic or obvious information about a vehicle, but are relevant in the law enforcement and registration processes. These information are those already found in the official receipts (OR) and certificate of registration (CR), except the information about the vehicle owner's address.
As for the location privacy part, the RFID has no GPS or Global Positioning System capability. Therefore, wherever you are, and whatever you do, the RFID can not disclose those kind of information to your wife or to your mother. Just don't be foolish to violate the traffic laws or any crimes that will trigger the law enforcers to find your whereabouts.
Most of our personal information are already everywhere. From the vastness of the information superhighway, social networking websites, to the banks, supermarkets, hotels, marketing companies, credit cards, membership cards, and etc. But none of these have threatened us YET, though the safety of our personal privacy also lies in these information containers. If there is any, then it is also our obligation and responsibility to take action against those privacy offenders.
The RFID can benefit us in a variety of ways, both the individual and organizations set to uphold the order in the streets and enforce the traffic law. Although, like any other technological advancements, we cannot expect that it is perfect. These are creations of imperfect creators - us. But like us, there is always a room for improvement.
Two big question though:
1) Are there laws already for those who will purposely tamper their RFID tags to prevent them from being identified?
2) How can the government defend or protect the motoring public from the abusing authorities, specially that they will have more advanced technology in their hands?
For more reading about the RFID applications and implications for Consumers, you may download the PDF file here.