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RFID ANALYSIS LIS 530E LE DECEMBER 4, 2006
Catherine Dunn Sean Gaffney Pamela Greenlee
Table of Contents I. Introduction II. RFID tag technology III RFID applications IV. Top Companies/Industry Overview
Intermec Symbol Texas Instruments IBM Cisco V. Key issues for the future of RFID Privacy Regulation Patents Standards and Interoperability Lowering Tag Costs VI. Emerging Technologies VII. Recommendations VIII. Conclusion IX. Bibliography
Radio frequency identification, which uses radio waves to identify objects, has multiple applications with excellent potential for business growth in the next decade according to Investor's Business Daily (Feb. 21, 2006). A tag containing an integrated circuit and an antenna sends information on a specific item to a wireless receiver/reader. Specificity allows tracking of a single item as opposed to tracking by category or bulk. Multiple radio tags can be “read” simultaneously, remotely, and without an operator. The machine to machine process includes imprinting/writing tags, reading the tags, transferring the data to software on a host computer system, then analyzing the data for profitable or effective application.
The RFID tag reader technology is becoming ubiquitous. It is becoming common for use in product tracking and inventory control, for collection of motor vehicle tolls, and for multiple other venues including credit cards and passports. However, the RFID tag system is not without drawbacks. Implementation can be expensive, currently requiring several years of use to provide investors or businesses ROI. User concerns about privacy issues impede expansion of use in some areas.
In an effort to analyze RFID technology from all sides, this report addresses the technology itself, current applications of the technology, the top companies involved in RFID (using five primary industry divisions), key issues for the future of RFID, emerging technologies, and recommendations.
II. RFID tag technology
RFID cards are also known as "proximity", "proxy" or "contactless cards" and come in three general varieties: passive, semi-passive (also known as semi active), or active.
Passive RFID tags have no internal power supply. The minute electrical current induced in the antenna by the incoming radio frequency signal provides just enough power for the CMOS integrated circuit in the tag to power up and transmit a response. Most passive tags signal by back scattering the carrier signal from the reader. This means that the antenna has to be designed to both collect power from the incoming signal and also to transmit the outbound back scatter signal. The response of a passive RFID tag is not necessarily just an ID number; the tag chip can contain non-volatile EEPROM for storing data.
The lack of an onboard power supply means that the device can be quite small: commercially available products exist that can be embedded in a sticker, or under the skin. As of 2006, the smallest such devices measured 0.15 mm × 0.15 mm, and are thinner than a sheet of paper (7.5 micrometers).  The lowest cost EPC RFID tags, which are the standard chosen by Wal-Mart, DOD, Target, Tesco in the UK and Metro AG in Germany, are available today at a price of 5 cents each. The addition of the antenna creates a tag that varies from the size of a postage stamp to the size of a post card. Passive tags have practical read distances ranging from about 10 cm (4 in.) (ISO 14443) up to a few meters (EPC and ISO 18000-6) depending on the chosen radio frequency and antenna design/size. Due to their simplicity in design they are also suitable for manufacture with a printing process for the antennas.
Unlike passive RFID tags, active RFID tags have their own internal power source which is used to power any ICs that generate the outgoing signal. Active tags are typically much more reliable (e.g. fewer errors) than passive tags due to the ability for active tags to conduct a "session" with a reader. Active tags, due to their onboard power supply, also transmit at higher power levels than passive tags, allowing them to be more effective in "RF challenged" environments like water (including humans/cattle, which are mostly water), metal (shipping containers, vehicles), or at longer distances. Many active tags have practical ranges of hundreds of meters, and a battery life of up to 10 years.
Some active RFID tags include sensors such as temperature logging which have been used in concrete maturity monitoring or to monitor the temperature of perishable goods. Other sensors that have been married with active RFID include humidity, shock/vibration, light, radiation, temperature and atmospherics like ethylene. Active tags typically have much longer range (approximately 300 feet) and larger memories than passive tags, as well as the ability to store additional information sent by the transceiver. The United States Department of Defense has successfully used active tags to reduce logistics costs and improve supply chain visibility for more than 15 years. At present, the smallest active tags are about the size of a coin and sell for a few dollars. Although useful in specific applications, the cost of active RFID is prohibitive for the large-scale item level tagging which will shape the future of the industry.
The semipassive/semi active tags have an internal power source that can monitor environmental conditions such as temperature or shock, and which may also extend the signal range of the tag. However, like passive tags, they must be activated by RF energy generated from a reader to allow data collection.
III. Current RFID Applications
RFID tags are ubiquitous in business and leisure today, yet few people realize the extent to which they rely on RFID technology. The following overview of current RFID applications accurately describes the breadth and pervasiveness of the industry.
RFID tags are being embedded in passports issued by many countries. The first RFID passports ("e-passports") were issued by Malaysia in 1998. In addition to information also contained on the visual data page of the passport, Malaysian e-passports record the travel history (time, date, and place) of entries and exits from the country. Standards for RFID passports are determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and are contained in ICAO Document 9303, Part 1, Volumes 1 and 2 (6th edition, 2006). ICAO refers to the ISO 14443 RFID chips in e-passports as "contactless integrated circuits". ICAO standards provide for e-passports to be identifiable by a standard e-passport logo  on the front cover. RFID tags are included in new UK and some new US passports, beginning in 2006. The US produced 10 million passports in 2005, and it has been estimated that 13 million will be produced in 2006. The chips will store the same information that is printed within the passport and will also include a digital picture of the owner. The passports will incorporate a thin metal lining to make it more difficult for unauthorized readers to "skim" information when the passport is closed. Transport payments RFID tags are becoming common for motor-vehicle toll payments worldwide, and in many areas, they are used for public transportation payments. In the French Alps RFID are used for access to ski lifts!
The New York City Subway is conducting a trial during 2006, utilizing PayPass by MasterCard as fare payment. Existing toll road applications include California's FasTrak, Illinois' I-Pass, Oklahoma's Pikepass, and the expanding eastern states' E-ZPass system (including Massachusetts's Fast Lane, New Jersey Turnpike, and the Maine Turnpike). The tags, which are usually the active type, are read remotely as vehicles pass through the booths, and tag information is used to debit the toll from a prepaid account. The system helps to speed traffic through toll plazas as it records the date, time, and billing data for the RFID vehicle tag. The Chicago Transit Authority recently began using RFID technology in their Chicago Card. The Moscow Metro was the first system in Europe to introduce RFID smartcards in 1998. In the UK, op systems for prepaying for unlimited public transport have been devised, making use of RFID technology. The design is embedded in a credit card-like pass, that when scanned reveals details of whether the pass is valid, and for how long the pass will remain valid. The first company to implement this is the NCT company of Nottingham City, where the general public affectionately refer to them as "beep cards". It has since then been implemented with great success in London, where "Oyster cards" allow for pay-as-you-go travel as well as passes valid for various lengths of time and in various areas. In Oslo, NO, the upcoming public transport payment is to be RFID-based all round. The system is to be put into production around spring 2007. Since 2002, in Taipei, Taiwan the transportation system uses RFID operated cards as fare collection. The Easy Card is charged at local convenience stores and metro stations, and can be used in Metro, buses, parking lots and taxis. The uses are planned to extend all throughout the island of Taiwan in the future. The plaza- and queue-free 407 Express Toll Route, in the Greater Toronto Area, allows the use of a transponder (an active tag) to account for all billing; this eliminates the need for identifying a vehicle by license plate and saves the end user a significant cost In Hong Kong, mass transit is paid for almost exclusively through the use of an RFID technology, called the Octopus Card. Originally it was launched in September 1997 exclusively for transit fare collection, but has grown to be similar to a cash card, and can be used in vending machines, fast-food restaurants and supermarkets. The card itself can be recharged with cash at add-value machines or over the counter in shops, and can be successfully read several centimeters from the reader. The "Calypso" RFID pass is used throughout the world for public transport systems such as Paris and Lyon in France, (RATP), Porto and Lisbon in Portugal, Milan and Torino in Italy, Montreal in Canada, Mexico, Pereira in Columbia, etc. In Rio de Janeiro, the “RioCard” can be used in buses, ferries, trains and subway. In Singapore, the public transport network of buses and trains employs passive RFID cards known as EZ-Link cards. Traffic into the crowded downtown areas of the country is regulated by variable tolls imposed using an active tagging system combined with the use of stored-value cards (known as CashCards). The Transperth public transport network in Perth, Western Australia uses RFID technology in the new SmartRider ticketing system. The global prevalence of RFID operated cards used for fare collection is represented by applications in Norway, France, Portugal, Italy, Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico, Columbia, Australia, etc. Supply Chain Management An advanced automatic identification technology such as the Auto-ID system based on the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has two values for inventory systems. First, the visibility provided by this technology allows an accurate knowledge on the inventory level by eliminating the discrepancy between inventory record and physical inventory. Second, the RFID technology can prevent or reduce the sources of errors. Benefits of using RFID include the reduction of labor costs, the simplification of business processes and the reduction of inventory inaccuracies.
The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency uses RFID tags as a replacement for barcode tags. The tags are required to identify the origin of a bovine herd. This information can be used to trace the source when a packing plant condemns a carcass. Currently CCIA tags are used in Wisconsin and by US farmers on a voluntary basis. The USDA is currently developing its own program. Implanted RFID tags are also used for animal identification. There are several more or less incompatible systems. UHF RFID tags are commonly used commercially in case, pallet, and shipping container tracking, and truck and trailer tracking in shipping yards. Pfizer is tagging packaging for Viagra with RFID, and GlaxoSmithKline is doing the same with Trizivir, an HIV drug, in attempts to prevent counterfeiting. BGN has launched two fully automated Smartstores that combine item-level RFID tagging and SOA to deliver a tightly integrated supply chain, from warehouse to consumer
Libraries High-frequency RFID tags are used in library book or bookstore tracking, pallet tracking, building access control, airline baggage tracking, and apparel and pharmaceutical item tracking. BGN has launched two fully automated Smartstores that combine item-level RFID tagging and SOA to deliver a tightly integrated supply chain, from warehouse to consumer. High-frequency tags are widely used in identification badges, replacing earlier magnetic stripe cards. These badges need only be held within a certain distance of the reader to authenticate the holder. Automotive Microwave RFID tags are used in long range access control for vehicles. Since the 1990's, RFID tags have been used in the car keys, as theft protection. Without correct RFID the car will not start. In January 2003, Michelin began testing RFID transponders embedded into tires. Their primary purpose is tire-tracking in compliance with the United States Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD Act). Starting with the 2004 model year, a Smart Key/Smart Start option became available to the Toyota Prius. The key uses an active RFID circuit which allows the car to acknowledge the key's presence within approximately 3 feet of the sensor. The driver can open the doors and start the car while the key remains in a purse or pocket. Companies can use RFID to assure that employees using company owned vehicles do so in compliance with company policy. Other Some smart cards embedded with RFID chips are used as electronic cash, e.g. SmarTrip in Washington, DC, USA, EasyCard in Taiwan, Suica in Japan, T-Money in South Korea, Octopus Card in Hong Kong, and the Netherlands and Oyster Card on the London Underground in the United Kingdom to pay fares in mass transit systems and/or retails. The Chicago Transit Authority recently began using RFID technology in their Chicago Card. In August 2004, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRH) approved a $415,000 contract to evaluate the personnel tracking technology of Alanco Technologies. Inmates will wear wristwatch-sized transmitters that can detect if prisoners have been trying to remove them and send an alert to prison computers. This project is not the first such rollout of tracking chips in US prisons. Facilities in Michigan, California and Illinois already employ the technology. High-frequency tags are widely used in identification badges, replacing earlier magnetic stripe cards. These badges need only be held within a certain distance of the reader to authenticate the holder. The American Express Blue credit card now includes a high-frequency RFID tag. The following chart indicating the Total number of RFID tags delivered from 1944 to end of 2005 (millions) indicates the wide spread use of this tracking system.
Application Cumulative number of tags to end 2005 (millions) Retail/Consumer Goods 230 Land and Sea Logistics/ Postal 10 Airlines and Airports 25 Healthcare 40 Animals and Farming 25 Books, Libraries, Archiving 70 Manufacturing 50 Leisure 100 Laundary 75 Financial, Security, Safety 670 Militarary 2 Passenger Transport/Automotive 1000 Other 80 Total 2397
IV. Five Top Companies /Industry Overview
Classifying companies involved with RFID by their primary mission results in five divisions: Data Capture, Wireless Infrastructure, Components/Semi-Conductors, IT Solutions/Software, and Networking/Telecom (Baird, 2006). Within each of these divisions, our report identifies the top company based on financial data, projected rate of growth, reputation within the industry, leadership and competitive advantages. Profiles of these five diverse companies provide a closer examination of a slice of the RFID industry.
Intermec Technologies Corporation ( Stock Ticker ITC)
ITC is a division of Intermec Inc. (stock symbol “IN”), and an industry leader in the data capture component of RFID. Specifically, ITC makes data collection and mobile computing products, including scanners, RFID readers, and data collection systems. These products are then used by distributors, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities in hundreds of industries around the world to improve productivity, quality, and business operation responsiveness. Other key companies involved in the data capture component of RFID include Zebra Technologies Corp., Avery Dennison, Paxar, Brady Corp., Checkpoint Systems Inc., Fargo Electroni cs Inc., and Printronix Inc.
Steven J. Winter (President & COO). Also a Vice President with Intermec Inc., ITC’s parent company. Janis L. Harwell (Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary) Tim Breidenbaugh (CFO). Larry D. Brady is the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Intermec Inc. Earnings and Profits information is only available for ITC’s parent company, Intermec Inc. For the past three years, in millions Year end 2005: Earnings $875.5 Profits $61.8 Year end 2004: Earnings $811.3 Profits (-$49.1) Year end 2003: Earnings $706.6 Profits (-$19.3) ITC, a company known for its innovative identification technologies, has had several important technological developments over the past two years. These include the introduction of the first vehicle-mounted EPCglobal Generation-2 RFID reader for forklifts (the IV7) and the unveiling of its Small Rigid Tag, which measures 1.2 inches by 3.1 inches and is designed to successfully track items despite the harsh conditions of certain manufacturing environments (such as chemical exposure or extreme temperatures). As part of a collaborative effort, ITC also introduced the Informs RFID Experience in a Box Kit, a kit intended to help both small and medium-sized business customers meet the RFID mandates of Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense. Beyond the introduction of these technological advances, ITC was awarded several key contracts within the past two years. In 2005, ITC was awarded a Blanket Purchasing Agreement to provide RFID printers and related equipment to support the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard in improving efficiency and inventory asset management. In 2006, ITC was awarded contracts to install EasyCoder PF2i Baggage Tag Printers with integrated Generation-2 RFID modules at the check-in counters at Hong Kong International Airport and a RFID system in the Cargo Free Zone at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Finally, legal issues regarding RFID intellectual property have had a major impact on ITC during the past two years. Specifically, ITC’s parent company, Intermec Inc., holds approximately 145 relevant patents in its RFID intellectual property portfolio covering all standards and classes for international practice of RFID, and, up until last year, it had been ensnared in legal disputes with Symbol Technologies over patent infringement by a hardware manufacturer subsequently purchased by Symbol Technologies. The lawsuit left the RFID industry in flux, waiting to see who would need to be paid, and at what level, for the use of the key RFID patents in dispute. In 2005, however, the two companies announced that they had settled all their disputes related to RFID, with each company giving each other access to its RFID intellectual property portfolios.
This cross-licensing is a result of Symbol Technology’s agreement to join Intermec’s Rapid Start Licensing Program, which, for a defined period of time, opens access to many of Intermec’s RFID technology innovations, both current and future, with member companies providing similar access to their technologies and processes. The program is designed to assist overall innovation in RFID, as well protect Intermec’s patents by alerting the marketplace as to which manufacturers and vendors are properly licensed to use Intermec’s RFID technologies. The final list of Rapid Start participants, which includes multiple industry leaders and was announced in September of 2005, is: Accu-Sort, Avery Dennison, AWID, Datamax, EM Micro, Feig Electronics, Hand Held Products, LXE, Metrologic, Paxar, PSC, Psion Teklogix, SAMSys, Sato, Symbol Technologies, Texas Instruments, ThingMagic, Toppan Printing, and Zebra Technologies.
Symbol Technology (now owned by Motorola (Stock Ticker MOT)
Symbol was an early leader in RFIDs and is still a market leader (41% of the RFID market, Datamonitor, p.17) and major supplier (Nobel, 2006). The company has had some negatives in the last few years, but its merger with Motorola supports optimism for continuing impact in the RFID industry under Motorolas egis. Symbol had the highest net sales in the Wireless Infrastructure category as represented by Baird. The wireless infrastructure is essential to data collection and security. In 2004, Symbol formed strategic relationships with Cingular, Nextel, Zebra Tech and IBM to broaden their mobility solutions. These connections represent the philosophy of Sal Iannuzzi, Symbol CEO, to lead the market with integrated systems solutions and services as well as with individual products. Symbol’s RFID division, one of its four product divisions, produces a variety of RFID tags and inlays, mobile RFID readers, and RFID wireless reader infrastructure. The product division accounts for about 80% of the company’s revenue; the remaining 20% comes from its services sector.
Salvatore Iannuzzi - CEO (January 2006) Timothy J. Yates, Sr. V.P., C.F.O. Arthur J. O’Donnell, Sr. V.P., Global Services., Chief Quality Officer James M Langrock, VP, Chief Accounting Officer, Corporate Controller Robert J. Chrenc, Chairman Earnings and Profits for the past three years, in thousands Year End 2005, Earnings $1,765,631, Profits $32,247 Year End 2004, Earnings $1,732,123, Profits $81,847 Year End 2003, Earnings $1,530,278, Profits $3,295 Revenue from RFID Year End 2005, $35,937 Year End 2004, $5,610 Between 1998 and 2002 Symbol inflated revenue reports by 230 million to meet expectations of analysts. For their accounting irregularities they were required by the SEC to pay out $37 million to investors and $3million to the US Postal Inspection Service Consumer Fraud Fund. Continuing discrepancies in 2004 kept their financial integrity in question. Executives faced criminal charges, and one Tomo Razmilovic is still on the lam. Symbol’s acquisition of Matrics, Inc. in 2004 included responsibility in a suit between Matrics and Intermec over alleged infringement on Intermec’s RFID patents. Symbol sued Intermec for Intermec infringement on Symbol patents, and Intermec countersued. An agreement to license technology from each other was part of the settlement. Intermec requested dismissal of both suits it had generated. The acquisition of Matrics is credited with a $30,000,000 increase in Symbol’s RFID revenue in 2005 as compared with 2004 (Datamonitor).
Symbol's pending acquisition by Motorola should “pump life in to the struggling RFID market” according to Industry Week (November 2006). The high tag prices seem to be the cause of the slow down, so the Motorola –Symbol strategy is to integrate RFID technology and cellular networks to allow external tracking. Other ideas include embedding readers and scanners into hand held devices so that consumers can scan codes from advertisements, then go to the internet for more information, developing RFID tags for untapped markets, producing readers that can read at greater distances. One patent that Motorola holds is US7132932: Method and apparatus for locating a fire hose. The patent describes how one or more RFID tags are integrated into a fire hose to facilitate an individual's exit from a structure. A portable interrogator worn by the individual interrogates the closest RFID tag. Each RFID tag has location information stored therein which gets decoded upon interrogation by the portable interrogator. The RFID location information assists the individual in locating the hose and following the hose towards its source point and out of the structure.
Motorola should be able to incorporate the best of Symbol - patents portfolio, market, and end-to-end solutions--and provide leadership, stability, and accountability where Symbol is deficient. So the real investor scoop here is Motorola.
Texas Instruments (Stock Ticker TXN)
Among the component and semi-conductor companies that are involved in RFID, Texas Instruments (TI)is the largest integrated manufacturer of transponders and reader systems. Other notable companies competing in this space include Impinj,Philips Electronics, and Infineon. TI-RFid is currently considered part of TI’s core Semiconductors division, although there are links between RFid and the Educational & Productivity solutions division. Semiconductors account for the vast majority of TI's revenues; in 2004 earnings from Semiconductors were 87% of total earnings. Although TI-RFid does not publish financials separately from the parent organization, the company has reported that revenues in 2005 were approximately 110 million, and during that period TI-RFid was profitable.
Thomas Engibous, Chairman President and CEO Richard Templeton, EVP and COO Julie England, VP of TI, General Manager of TI-RFid Earnings and Profits for the past three years, in millions Year end 2005: Earnings $13,392 Profits $2,324 Year end 2004: Earnings $12,580 Profits $1,861 Year end 2003 Earnings $9834 Profits $1,198 According to the RFID Update October 2006 report, TI is the #1 industry thought leader, the #1 company most desidered to be associated with and the #2 most recognized RFID provider. TI has used its reputation and established base (since 1991) in RFID to develop a coallition of RFID-related companies called "Team Tag-it" which can provided fully integrated RFID solutions based on TI technology. Further TI is influential in relevant standards bodies including EPC, ISO, and ISO/IEC. Due to TI's active role in standards-setting, their products adhere to a wide range of standards suitable for domestic and international applications. In 2005, TI devoted increased resources to TI-RFid, adding three new directors in the areas of wire less commerce, healthcare and technology development. In the year following, TI-RFID announced MasterCard paypass certified products useful for deployment as wristbands or keyfobs and also launched the EPC Gen2 UHF product line. TI invested in the future of the RFid section via a business alliance with Phillips Electronics and the acquisition of Chipcon, a developer of RF transceiver devices. Chipcon was bought for $200 million and the acquisition is expected to result in technologies that combine wireless sensor network technologies and RFid.In April of 2006, TI sold its Sensors and Controls division, which TI-RFid used to be part of, but redefined TI-RFid as part of its core business. As outlined in TI-RFid's August 2006 white paper, TI expects straps rather than labels to be the future of RFid tags and is revising its production accordingly (see main paper for details of the strap technique).
International Business Machines (Stock Ticker IBM)
Within the division of IT Solutions/Software, IBM is currently the leading company due to the patents they hold, their current and planned partnerships, and the respect felt for their leadership in RFID research. IBM’s resources in terms of financial and human capital afford them a long-term view of RFID, which is within the Sensors and Actuators division. While smaller companies may feel pressure due to the uneven pace of RFID adoption, IBM is able to handle both slow periods and intense bursts of activity.
Per industry periodical RFID Update, IBM is considered to be the #2 Industry Thought Leader and the #2 RFID company most desired to be associated with. IBM regularly develops innovative products such as the "clipped tag" which allows end product users to tear off the antennae to protect privacy. IBM patents the product, then licenses them to external producers, such as Marnlen RFID which will be producing and selling clipped tags (RFID Weblog).
Samuel Palmisano, Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Donofrio, EVP Earnings and profits for the past three year, in millions Year End 2005 Revenue $91,134 Net Income $7,994 Year End 2004 Revenue $96,293 Net Income $7,497 Year End 2003 Revenue $89,131 Net Income $6,588 IBM does not track RFID revenue separately and Director of Sensor and Actuator strategy, Ann Breidenbach, declines to give any financial metrics for its RFID business. In addition to IBM, IT Solutions/Software companies involved with RFID includes large companies such as SAP and Sun, mid-size companies including Accenture, Verisign and Unisys, and small companies like Manugistics and Manhattan Associates. IBM and other companies providing IT Solutions/Software will be gaining in RFID market share during the next 5 years as industries recognize the need to analyze and maintain the data gathered from RFID tags. Only through the maintenance and analysis of RFID reader data can the worth of RFID technology be realized.
IBM’s software product “Websphere RFID” is used by major companies including TagSys and Intermec. IBM is believed to be in the forefront of developing "chipless" RFid tags and to be working on the speed and accuracy constraints of UHF. The RFID team recently released a new software standard, now being tested by Unilever, that aims to help manufacturers and retailers share information throughout the supply chain. IBM’s research agenda has also resulted in a patent for packaging incorporating volume-measurement capability using RFID tags (US7142124) According to the patent, IBM has invested a method and system to enable quantities of bulk-type products to be determined using RFID tags that can also be used to determine the existence of product or packaging containing RFID tags. Packaging and/or containers for the bulk products are configured so that the RFID tags contained thereon provide an indication of an approximate relative quantity of the bulk material (Delphion).
Cisco Systems, Inc. (Stock Ticker CSCO)
Cisco has been an industry leader in the area of networking for the Internet for many years, and, recently, it has begun using its experience with network architectures and Internet Protocol-based (IP) networking solutions in the area of RFID. The RFID market has focused predominantly on reader and tag integration thus far, but Cisco’s focus is on what happens once users of RFID are connected to the network. Other key companies involved in the networking component of RFID include Intel Corporation, Motorola Inc., Nokia Oyi, Qualcomm Inc., and LM Ericsson.
John T. Chambers, President, CEO & Chairman of the Board Dennis D. Powell, Senior Vice President & CFO Bradford J. Boston, Senior Vice President & CIO Paul Mountford, President-Emerging Markets Theatr e Chris Dedicoat, President-European Markets Earnings and Profits for the past three years, in millions Fiscal year ending July 29, 2006: Earnings $28,484 Profits $5,580 Fiscal year ending July 30, 2005: Earnings $24,801 Profits $5,741 Fiscal year ending July 31, 2004: Earnings $22,045 Profits $4,401 Since the networking component of RFID is still fairly new, most of Cisco’s efforts in the area have taken place within the past two years. As touched on above, rather than delivering the RFID tags or reader products themselves, Cisco provides an infrastructure of routers, switches, and specialized appliance that have been optimized to run RFID applications, as well as guidance for those involved in pilot programs and production rollouts. Specifically, Cisco’s Application-Oriented Networking Initiative, which began shipping in October of 2005 at a price of $16,250, aims to couple applications with network infrastructure to delivery network-wide application interoperability through the use of RFID-aware blades added to certain routers and switches. Cisco’s end goal is to help corporations install and run large numbers of RFID tags and readers while managing them (and their traffic) as part of Cisco’s existing corporate networks. Other elements of Cisco’s recent RFID efforts include new and expanded consulting services to assist customers with deployment; partnerships with software vendors who support Cisco software; and the Cisco 2700 Wireless Location Appliance, a 802.11 wireless LAN-based tagging and tracking product, which began shipping in June of 2005 with a list price of $14,995. Also within the past two years, Cisco has piloted its collaborative Belgian Victim Tracking and Tracing System (BeViTTS), a victim-tracking system to be used in disasters which allows hospital staff access to the efforts of first-responders on the scene, including assessments of the severity of injuries, victim tagging, and diagnoses/priorities inputted into the system. Cisco has also teamed up with Intel to support EPCglobal Hong Kong’s radio frequency identification supply chain visibility network in China’s Pan Pearl River Delta, which will be based in part on existing Cisco voice and data networks. In addition, Cisco’s growth in the area of RFID has not been confined to purely internal efforts. Instead, Cisco has contributed to partner companies as well. For example, in 2005, Cisco Systems, along with SAP AG, provided $13.5 million in funding to Reva Systems. This funding raised many eyebrows across the industry because of the small size and retail bend of Reva’s work, which provides rack-mounted devices that enable RFID administrators to manage their RFID readers as well as data and operations along the RFID network, but both companies agree on the potential benefits of moving RFID functions into the actual hardware of the network itself.
Finally, Cisco has acquired several companies over the past two years. In 2006 alone, Cisco acquired Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. in February; SyPixx Networks, Inc. in April; Metreos Corp. and Audium Corp. in June; Meetinghouse Data Communications in August; and Arroyo Video Solutions, Inc. in September.
V. Key Issues for the Future of RFID
Privacy fears, and probably some degree of hyperbole, thread through discussions about RFIDs. Is it possible that someone with an RFID reader could walk by your house and know what you own? Jim Rapoza (2005) conjectures that a laptop, equipped with a reader could pick up the history of your fellow travelers from their RFID passports: where they are from, where they have been, how old they are. Is that far-fetched? He tells of a California school that gave the students badges with RFIDs and tracked them for a day. The parents were furious! Consider too Visa’s plan to put RFIDs in credit cards so that small purchase transaction can be accomplished with a wave of the card. Everyone aware of RFID technology seems to be grappling with benefit v. liability, with the real privacy implications and with circumventing reactionary fears.
Library administrators are among those evaluating the potential of RFIDs. Daniel Walters (2005) lists benefits to include more efficient circulation check out/in, inventory control, and the advantage of limiting repetitive, and time-consuming, physical work that may result in employee injury. Jackie Griffin, (2005), Director of Berkeley Public Library emphasizes the later issue noting that retirement costs, workers’ compensation costs and the related insurance premiums comprise a benefits package that was 54% of salary in 2005 at her library, and projected to rise to 59% by 2007. These costs have had serious impact on library service forcing reduction in staff and hours which in turn limits library and computer access to the community. Griffin advocates using these issues to support the use of RFIDs in the advancement of intellectual freedom and the reduction of the digital divide.
Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been one of the most vocal of many detractors due to concern about privacy issues related to RFID use, especially in libraries. Tien cited the ability of the government to monitor reading habits, the potential use of the tag as a device to track patrons, and the influence libraries could have on promoting a cultural acceptance of RFIDs.
David Molnar expands the privacy and security concerns as they relate to libraries as he advises librarians of issues to consider when collaborating with a vendor:
Anyone who buys a compatible reader can read tags and gather the information encoded on them. Tags can be rewritten. Tags can also be locked so that they cannot be over-written. Conceivably, if the library were using unlocked tags, someone could develop a device that could be used to overwrite all the tags in the library with garbage, and then the corrupters could lock the tags. A security bit that encodes circulation status must be transferable so that if the library changes vendors, it is not deprived of readers that read that extension. The identifier is static; it doesn’t change. This would enable someone to track different instances of use of the same book, i.e. identify multiple people who read the same thing. If one were to know in advance what book(s) he might want to track, he could go to a library and find the barcode on relevant material. The barcode is on the library tag. If he sees that barcode again he can identify the book and the library source. This is “hot listing”. Even if libraries re-write tags at each check out (a practice that could result in problems for patrons if the item is not properly checked out/in), a reader could pick up the identifier assigned by the manufacturer. Current readers function at distances measured in inches (a few feet). Concern that future technological advances will likely expand that range fuels some of the angst in the library community. Library RFIDS could hold patron data, though libraries would be expected to minimize the encoded information, preventing that intrusion. Schuyler, (2004) counters many of the arguments with the irrefutable reference to the patron privacy gained by technology. For example he recalls the days when patron information was carefully recorded on call slips that formed a use record readily available to anyone who pulled the item from the shelf! “The only way you can trace and FRID number back to the borrower is by accessing the circulation records” while the item is checked out. Upon return the trail is lost. Furthermore, those who might have justification for tracking a patron have easier, less labor intensive methods available to them, and it is worth noting that this use is not by criminals, but by professionals seeking to locate criminals. Other applications of RFIDs probably pose greater privacy risks than libraries. The Department of Homeland Security has a draft report that states that “while RFID is useful for tasks like inventory management, the technology should rarely be used to track people. The risks to privacy outweigh the technology’s communication and security benefits.” (Songini, p.12). Others counter that RFID can be “used to improve the speed of verification without compromising privacy” if commonsense is used in surveillance strategies.
A proposal by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture to require RFID of animals has farmers up in arms. Registration would be at owner's expense and would apply to anyone who owns even one livestock animal. Registration would include the owner’s name and address and GPS coordinates, and would be required for any animal that ever leaves the premise of its birth – for stud, for slaughter, for exhibition. The system could prevent people from raising animals for their own use and violate religious beliefs of those who believe that their system of faith prohibits marking their homes or possessions with numbering systems. Except in the cases of motor vehicles and guns, such registration of private property is without precedent in the US. Opponents also demonstrate that the RFID system would be virtually useless in tracking contamination sources in the larger food industry.
Pharmaceutical companies are eager to use RFID to fight counterfeiting, but patients are concerned about the tracking potential. Fears include access to personal information without the knowledge of the user, or the tracking of buying behavior by marketers, or even the ability to “see” what medications a person uses from outside his home! It would appear the concern could be easily addressed by removing tags at the point of delivery to the consumer.
An apparently all-positive application of the technology in medicine is a microchip implanted in a patient that can be scanned for accurate glucose monitoring and similar chips contain a patient’s medical history would allow doctors access to this information even if the patient was unconscious. This, of course, would be voluntary.
RFID credit cards have the potential to enhance service with quick checkouts, but nay-sayers fear that talented thieves would be able to devise readers and steal credit card information. The industry counters that readers are not universal and that this is not so easily done.
Concerns for marketing abuse, especially in the grocery stores seem largely unfounded, unless the critics also consider “preferred” customer cards abusive. The current cards already track customer purchases and are the basis for mass-customized coupon advertisements mailed to consumers. Passport privacy issues have likely been temporarily diminished by foil-lined folders (as indicated above), however, reading through metal is one of the areas of investigation for aggressive product developers.
Many organizations are forging ahead in spite of controversy, as evidenced by the long list of current applications. Manufacturers and retailers used more than 1.3 billion RFID tags in 2005 (Bonasia). Industry leaders are aware of privacy concerns and have suggested or implemented some strategies. Kill tags can be disabled after a purchase, though this makes returns or after-sale services a problem. Blocker tags can scramble data transmission. As mentioned above, IBM has developed a clipped tag, serrated like a ketchup packet, so that consumers can rip away a piece containing the tag antenna (Bonasia, 2006). AXCESS International Inc, has an ActiveTag that can be used in data centers and record departments to assure personal privacy data is not compromised.
Therefore, even though there is evidence that the industry addressing privacy issues, expect government regulation as tracking systems continue to evolve. Confidential records lost or stolen from databases in 2005 numbered 83 million (Dallas, June 6, 2006), and RFID potentially increases both the means and the opportunity to retrieve and store personal data. Regulatory issues are addressed in the next section below.
As noted above, a major issue for the future regarding RFID, which has yet to be effectively addressed, is the issue of regulation. Creating uniform regulations for use of the technology can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, including establishing consistency and limiting improper use of the technology. However, certain battle lines have already been drawn by different contingencies regarding the appropriate boundaries for what should constitute an improper use of RFID technology.
For example, after extensive discussion and multiple amendments, Senate Bill 768 (“the Identity Information Protection Act of 2006”) passed in both the California House and California Senate earlier in 2006. It was the first state bill to address permissible use of RFID technology in identification documents issued by state and local governments and agencies.
However, instead of signing the bill into law, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill on September 30, 2006. In a written statement accompanying his veto, Governor Schwarzenegger called the bill premature and potentially contradictory to soon-to-be-issued federal mandates, which he stated would place law enforcement officers in a difficult position regarding which law to enforce. In addition, Governor Schwarzenegger argued that the bill could curb technological innovation in the area of RFID, stating that the bill could “inhibit various state agencies from procuring technology that could enhance and streamline operations, reduce expenses and improve customer service to the public, and may unnecessarily restrict state agencies” (O”Connor, 2006).
The federal mandates that Governor Schwarzenegger referred to are potentially a part of the Real ID Act, a law President Bush advocated for that would establish a federally approved and electronically readable ID card. While no firm decision has been made regarding the particular technology to be used in these ID cards, RFID technology has been discussed as one possibility. However, it is important to note that even if certain sections were ultimately superseded by portions of the Real ID Act, the Identity Information Protection Act of 2006 would have continued to regulate the use of RFID technology in identification cards issued by the state not otherwise impacted by the Real ID Act.
Specifically, SB 786 contained certain security rules designed to help limit improper use of the technology, including (1) the incorporation of tamper-resistant authentication tools designed to present forgery, duplication or cloning of the ID, (2) encryption designed to make the information unreadable to unauthorized individuals, and (3) an on/off switch so the holder of the ID could control its data transmission. These security rules were scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2012, and they were designed to be temporary in nature while the California Research Bureau (CRB) conducted a study into the use of RFID technology in identification materials issued by the government, as well as the security and privacy implications of using the technology. The rules also provided for CRB to create an advisory board (composed of industry representatives, government officials, and representatives of privacy-rights organizations) to advise it on the RFID technology and its application varying types of identification materials.
In the wake of Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto, it is still the case that none of the states have laws addressing the permissible use of RFID technology (this is despite the fact that 18 bills were proposed addressing RFID in 17 states in 2005, and 15 bills were proposed addressing RFID in 10 states in 2006). Likewise, despite some attention from the Federal Trade Commission a few years ago, there are no federal laws or regulations addressing this specific issue. Federal Trade Commission recommended self-regulation for the RFID industry with accountability rather than RFID legislation" and advocating consumer education (Ferguson, 2006). Neither has the European Union produced anything definitive. Accordingly, the closest thing to regulation of RFID technology at this time is the “industry driven” standards proposed by EPCGlobal.
EPCGlobal is a subscriber-based organization of industry leaders working to create global standards for its EPCGlobal Network. Its standards include some privacy-related guidelines for the use of RFID-based electronic product codes (EPC), such as giving notice of the presence of EPC tags to consumers and allowing them to discard or disable them. However, while it may sound somewhat similar to California’s efforts to regulate RFID technology, EPCGlobal’s standards are completely non-binding. They are simply voluntary standards. These types of standards can be of particular value in emerging areas like this one, bringing commonality which may make businesses new to the area more likely to invest in what they may otherwise see as merely a new and largely unproven technology. However, purely in terms of its reach, the non-binding nature of this particular standard leaves it several steps away from the recent unsuccessful efforts of the California House and Senate with regard to SB 786.
In short, the regulation of RFID technology is a complicated issue. Despite the complexity, however, regulatory issues must be addressed because they will continue to loom over the use of this technology until they are. Hopefully, a middle ground can be reached which recognizes the need for the technology to have some space to grow while also addressing the privacy and security issues that go hand-in-hand with the great potential for the misuse of the tracking capabilities of RFID technology.
Some would argue that RFID is not a new technology. In fact RFID was used in the 1940's to track aircraft and in the 1960's and 70's by GE to track railroad cars and buses (Kapsambelis, 2006). Nonetheless, patent lawsuits abound between companies that are trying to claim legal responsibility for Gen2 devices. Even companies using RFID technology, such as Wal-Mart, are being sued for RFID patent infringement (Roberti, 2006). Intermec, which holds 145 patents, and the majority of passive RFID patents, has been embroiled in lawsuits with Symbol and Zebra.
In what is believed to be an attempt to lower licensing costs, several dozen RFID technology companies are creating a patent pool which will solicit and manage Gen 2 related patents. The patent pool has hired an administrator, but still needs to be approved by the Department of Justice. Intermec, which introduced the Rapid Start licensing consortium for its own patents, has not joined the patent pool. Perhaps the patent pool is an organized attempt by the RFID industry to circumvent Intermec's influence.
Standards and Interoperability
Due to differences in radio spectrum allocations in various countries, is has proven difficult to establish inclusive international standards for RFID. EPCGlobal's Gen2 UHF RFID standard was recently accepted by the ISO (International Standards Organization), and it is hoped that China will also accept this standard. Per Baird, the Chinese Congress meets only once every 5 years, so their position on Gen2 during the 2007 Congress meeting will be particularly important. If China does not approve GEN2, RFID may not become a break-through technology, since 70% of consumer good originate in China (Baird). For the purposes of vertical supply chain management and best use of RFID data throughout the supply chain, RFID tags should be installed at the desired level at the time of manufacture and traced all the way through to the end user. If the manufacturing, packing and end user countries are different, these countries must share an RFID standard in order effectively use RFID information. Without such a standard, the value of RFID is negligible, except to comply with vendors' stated requirements (i.e. Walmart).
Even if the Gen2 UHF standard is adopted internationally, businesses may need to layer both HF (High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) RFID tags in different applications. The industry has been pushing the adoption of UHF tags, like those used in supply chains, however, both UHF and HF RFID have strengths and weakness. As currently implemented, HF can broadcast only 3 feet, which decreases privacy concerns, while UHF's broadcast range of 32 feet is necessary for applications such as moving car toll payments. UHF RFID devices can hold greater amounts of data, which will be useful as companies learn to manage RFID data, but may also compromise security. A recent report from ODIN technologies found that HF outperformed UHF in RFID tagging bottles of prescription medicine. Businesses need to consider both the appropriateness of HF and UHF RFID for their particular applications and likely future standards before investing in a RFID system.
Lowering Tag Costs
Many have argued that the cost of RFID tagging will need to become almost free in order for 1) item-level tagging to reach critical mass across a large number of industries and 2) industry resources to be freed for necessary spending on integration, data management and data storage and software and consulting services. Per IDTechEX, item level tagging will increase almost 100 times over the next ten years. The increase in tag volume is expected to provide the momentum to grow the RFID industry by making it more widely profitable. To meet this projected increase in tag volume will require low cost RFID tagging and demonstrated benefits to outweigh the investment needed for a company to convert to RFID tagging. Two emerging technologies that hope to lower the cost per chip are strap production and chipless tags.
According to Texas Instrument’s white paper from August 2006, the use of smart labels is constrained by the need for a flat surface, particular surface materials (generally non-liquid, non-metallic) and a large surface area. A new Gen2 compliant process called strap technique produces separate chips and antennae which are put together by the user. Strap forms allow for lower capital costs and costs per unit. Using the strap technique, tiny (4x9mm)chips can be embedded in packing, such as cardboard cartons, and programmed by the users' readers at any point.
Alternatives to standard RFID tags include the chipless tags under development by IBM and others. Chipless tags include polymer, or thin-film, transistor circuits and surface acoustic wave (SAW)devices. Non-silicon tags made from polymer semiconductors are currently being developed by several companies globally. Simple laboratory printed polymer tags operating at 13.56 MHz were demonstrated in 2005 by both PolyIC (Germany) and Philips (The Netherlands). If successfully commercialized, polymer tags will be roll printable, like a magazine, and much less expensive than silicon-based tags.
The end game for most item level tagging over the next few decades may be that RFID tags will be wholly printed - the same way a barcode is today - and be virtually free, like a barcode. However, substantial technical and economic hurdles must be surmounted to accomplish such an end: hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested over the last three decades in silicon processing, resulting in a per-feature cost which is actually less than that of conventional printing.
VI: Emerging Technologies
The RFID industry is trying to attain maturity through collaborative efforts and consolidations. Before RFID can become an embraceable, fully integrated technology, issues of cost, standards and interoperability will need to be resolved. Government regulation will play a part in regulating radio spectrum resources and representing citizen concerns about privacy; the governmental role will grow as RFID becomes widely recognized as a single transformative technology, and also as RFID decreases labor needs in supply chains. Currently, the public generally does not understand RFID and is unaware of the many RFID tags that they interact with each day. A closer look at one new RFID application side-by-side with an overview of inventions under development demonstrates the likelihood the RFID will continue to grow during the coming five years.
RFID is not without competition as a tracking device either. To combat some of the negatives of RFID in the Pharmaceutical industry, Kodak has developed the “Kodak Traceless System.” The product uses “a unique image processing technology and undisclosed marker materials”. With Kodak’s proprietary technology marker particles are distributed randomly on an item. With FDA approval, they could be placed on individual capsules. The client chooses where the markers are placed and does not even have to reveal that choice to Kodak. Because the microscopic specks are distributed randomly, there is no pattern that can be duplicated. The “chips” comprise only two-five parts per billion of the packaging material so they are “forensically and optically invisible. Identification codes are generated from only about a dozen of these particles.” (Food & Drug Letter, 2006). This creative application is likely an indication that further specialized tracking systems will develop that will compete with RFIDs.
Near Field Communications
One RFID application that exists at the convergence between contactless commerce and communication is Near Field Communications (NFC). RFID is considered one of the base technologies for NFC, which has been under discussion for several years and implemented to some extent in Asia. The most prominent use of NFC is enabled by placing an RFID chip in cell phones to allow them to use short-range wireless to make payments, read information from smart posters etc. In April of 2006, Motorola was part of the NFC conference sponsored by Phillips, and their acquisition of Symbol makes them a potentially major player in NFC. Moving NFC closer to reality, The Global System for Mobiles Association, which represents companies serving more than 82 percent of the world's phone users, is pushing for a global standard on NFC and has announced plans to release a white paper(cite David Meyer, ZDnet UK, & the RFID weblog.
An application of NFC under development by VingCard in cooperation with Phillips is remote check-in for hotels. Guests with RFID/NDC equipped cell phones can use SMS (short message system) to check in and receive their encrypted room access code. Contact or near-contact between the guest’s cell phone and the room door will unlock the door. VingCard calls this application "Signature RFID" and it is an open-platform technology compatible with multiple RFID standards and supporting the new NFC secure transaction platform. This type of RFID application should become ubiquitous in scenarios where all customers can be safely assumed to have cell phones. The cost and support for running dual locking systems, both RFID/NFC and standard, may delay the implementation of the system. As in all RFID/NFC cell phone applications, businesses will need to examine whether they are acting unfairly towards customers, or potential customers, who do not own cell phones.
Recently Patented Inventions
In 2006, there have been over 1,100 patents granted or applications published in the United States alone. All patent abstracts were accessed through Delphion. Among the most novel:
US20060109118A1: Twist-tie RFID tag An RFID tag that incorporates at least one integral or permanently attached twist-tie fastener for easy attachment, detachment and reattachment to various items to be inventoried is provided. The RFID tag is included at least partially in a protective housing to permit it to be utilized in hostile environments. The twist-tie portion is attached to the tag and preferably is constructed of a braided or single strand wire. One or more visual indicia also may be printed on the face of the protective housing. Assigned to SDGI Holdings, Inc., a privately-held patent holding company, headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware.
US20060246882A1: Intelligent call forwarding via RFID technology A system and method for selectively providing call forwarding from a mobile communication device to a telephone number includes a radio frequency identification (RFID) device associated with the telephone number. The mobile communication device interrogates the RFID device when the mobile communication device is in proximity to the RFID device. The RFID device responds by transmitting an identifier for identifying a telephone number to the mobile communication device. The identifier may include an identification code, a telephone number, a pointer, or the like. The mobile communication device may then selectively provide call forwarding to the telephone number identified from the identifier provided by the RFID device. Assigned to Siemens Communications, Inc., a subsidiary of Siemens AG (SI), a publicly-traded corporation headquartered in Munich, Germany.
US7121471: Method and system for DNA recognition biometrics on a fob Radio frequency identification transaction system for biometric security in financial transaction, detects proffered deoxyribonucleic acid scan sample and verifies detected sample. The biometric security system also includes a DNA scan sensor that detects biometric samples and a device for verifying biometric samples. In one embodiment, the biometric security system includes a transponder configured with a DNA scan sensor. In another embodiment, the system includes a reader configured with a DNA scan sensor. In yet another embodiment, the present invention discloses methods for proffering and processing DNA scan samples to facilitate authorization of transactions. Assigned to American Express Travel Related Services Company, a subsidiary of American Express Company (AXP), a publicly-traded corporation headquartered in New York City, New York.
The largest business opportunities for companies interested in RFID exposure may be vertical expansion. In particular, we would recommend using the company's knowledge base about an industry to integrate RFID systems with existing industry Information Systems. For discussion purposes, the example of libraries is useful. After performing a cost/benefit analysis, a library may decide to tag their holdings both to prevent theft and to decrease circulation staffing costs. However, after installation, the library realizes that the data captured by the RFID system (consisting of tags, reader, and reader interface) does not feed into or other wise operate with the existing Integrated Library System (ILS). This is an opportunity for ILS vendors to build platforms for sharing information between systems.
Keep in mind that as RFID works on overcoming the challenges outlined in this paper, other technology are being developed that may leapfrog RFID. For this reason, while we would recommend expanding your existing business to include RFID integration software and services for the primary industries you serve, we would not recommend a wholesale change in focus to RFID or any entry into the hardware side of RFID.
Overall, RFID technology has the power to do some amazing things, as evidenced by the breadth of possible applications currently being developed and advanced by a somewhat mismatch of major companies. Also, while the main focus of this report is the development and advancement of RFID technology in the United States, work is being done on RFID technology across the globe. To this point, however, RFID has not been profitable enough to result in widespread use. This is changing somewhat due to the lower cost and improved accuracy of second generation RFID technology. However, even if the cost issue is addressed, the future of RFID depends on of a series of other issues currently plaguing it, including privacy, regulation, patents/intellectual property rights, and standards and interoperability. And these types of issues cannot be addressed by one or two companies alone. These are big picture issues which must be addressed across the industries and individual companies involved in RFID. Therefore, despite the great potential of RFID from a technological standpoint, all the technological advances in the world will not make RFID profitable unless users are willing to invest in the technology. Instead, RFID’s best chance for success depends most upon the community involved in it working to achieve a certain level of cohesiveness and then using their combined resources to work together on big picture issues for the good of the whole.
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