Comments

TonyMarch 3, 2008 7:00 AM

A great way to work out which truck is worth stealing by the value of the inventory it carries.

jdegeMarch 3, 2008 7:02 AM

'm so worried about what's hapening today in the Middle East, you know,
And I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.

I'm so worried about the fashions today. I don't think they're good for your feet,
And I'm so worried about the shows on TV that sometimes they want to repeat.

I'm so worried about what's happening today, you know,
And I'm worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.

metr0March 3, 2008 7:14 AM

jdege:
I'm glad I'm not the only one that immediately thought of that song. I feel so much less neurotic now.

Tremaine LeaMarch 3, 2008 7:46 AM

Interesting system, but I don't think they went anywhere near far enough to increase productivity.

It'd be a lot more useful to dump the days work into the system, and have the required tools 'attached' to that work.

For example, if an electrician needs to run some new wire and install a new stove plug at a residence, there should be an inventory of tools that are necessary to complete that task attached to the work order which the system can then check for before they leave.

It's a rare day that a contractor brings everything necessary to be an electrician... they'd need much bigger trucks.

Of course on the security side of things, how perfectly awesome to be able to break into a yard and find the truck that carries the items you want to steal instead of searching each one by hand.

Efficiency for all :)

John RidleyMarch 3, 2008 7:55 AM

The tags just have a unique serial number. You could work out which truck had a lot of tools in it, but not necessarily the value. A tag could be a screwdriver or a $800 sliding compound miter saw. You won't know unless you look, and if you're going to look, you don't need the RFID.

When I first saw this I thought it would be mainly useful for determining if you'd left any tools behind at the job site. Push a button to set what's currently in the bed as the correct inventory, and push another when you're ready to leave the job site, and it'll pop up what you've left behind, and possibly also if you accidentally (or is that "accidentally") picked up one of someone else's tool.

In order for it to work as described (having the right tool for the job) the thing would have to be programmed to know what tools were needed for any given job, then before you left you'd have to select a job and it could pop up "you don't have a hammer drill in the truck. You'll need one."

Also for contractors, it'll have to recognize that ANY hammer drill is OK, not just some specific one. That's all just data entry but it's a new thing for them to have to learn to do.

It does sound like that's what they've developed. Someone at the contractor's place will have to put some time into building these lists. Hopefully there will be a way for them to maintain the lists on a computer and download them into multiple trucks, otherwise that's a lot of lost labor. I can see this being a huge benefit for those who spend the time to set it up.

PittCalebMarch 3, 2008 8:14 AM

I'll gladly pay for a an RFID tag/reader system that I can put on my bags and then track while waiting for them. It would be great to know my bag is within a certain range of me (& my reader) while waiting impatiently on the belt for my luggage to arrive. Can readers give proximity based on signal strength?

KaszetaMarch 3, 2008 9:29 AM

Yes, readers can give proximity based on signal strength. I've done several projects where we've used such pseudoranges for tracking. And a former coworker of mine developed a prototype system that created a virtual buffer around rotating propellers (http://www.navysbir.com/158-abstracts.htm)

OmnifariousMarch 3, 2008 9:45 AM

Those are good uses. Inventory control at retail stores would be a good use too if they promised to get rid of the tag after you bought it.

bearMarch 3, 2008 10:06 AM

When I read this, it brought to mind a good idea as an home security measure. If you tagged your home items (stereo, computer, tv, vcr, CD cases, bikes, etc...) and logged it in with a description including serial numbers it would make a great way for police to check for reported stolen items. It would also help you identify what was stolen in a break in. The insurance companies may like it as it might reduce the fraud when breakins are reported ("they stole my brand new playstation 3 that was a gift so I don't have a receipt" type things.)

If the tag was just a serial number of some kind it would be easy to inventory while keeping the identiy of what you have in the house confidential. The snooping thief / neighbour may see 100 RFID tags but for all they know they could be in a box in the attic.

pmpMarch 3, 2008 10:20 AM

Alta ski resort does not issue the old school sticker on the metal wire lift tickets. They give you a reloadable card with RFID embedded. At the lift, you stand in front of a gate, the scanner recognizes your card, the gate opens, and you are on your way.

Very cool.

AndyMarch 3, 2008 10:54 AM

I want to inventory the trash next to an emergency room patient to see exactly what's been used on that patient. It could be used for billing, to verify treatment, and to alert people to administering potentially conflicting drugs.

200803031136March 3, 2008 11:37 AM

@PittCaleb Doesn't work when everyone is waiting at belt 18 and the luggage is turning its round at belt 4.

JeremyMarch 3, 2008 1:03 PM

RFID is great for supply chains but needs to be taken out or disabled when it comes into stores. If we allow RFID into our products, some nasty consequences will surface.

ZaD MoFoMarch 3, 2008 1:30 PM

"Hi! I am your nurse and this is your new ID pill... Please swallow...
Thank you and welcome in... - Nurse! nurse: this pill had a blue side and a red side: wich colour is your favorite? [...]"

RFID is for tomorrow what BARCODE is today but with distance and see thru capabilities. I can not imagine all the goods use of this technology as a myriad of possibilities exist or are yet to come.

The other side : I also do foresee what might be ther "alternates" uses.

SkorjMarch 3, 2008 2:50 PM

@JohnDoe

"By the way, as RFID can be used to track any item on a truck, it can be used to decide which truck is worth stealing..."

OK, then! This trunk has {AE6B8C31-CCF0-4e60-9595-9B44F2377CF1} and that one has {17A0B2DA-248B-45fc-83ED-354A0218857C} - which one do you steal?

It's very clear in the database that you don't have access to which one is the screwdriver and which is the $800 sliding compound miter saw.

Here's a hint: the TRUCK is worth more than the tools, so either one is just as good.

SkorjMarch 3, 2008 2:50 PM

@JohnDoe

"By the way, as RFID can be used to track any item on a truck, it can be used to decide which truck is worth stealing..."

OK, then! This trunk has {AE6B8C31-CCF0-4e60-9595-9B44F2377CF1} and that one has {17A0B2DA-248B-45fc-83ED-354A0218857C} - which one do you steal?

It's very clear in the database that you don't have access to which one is the screwdriver and which is the $800 sliding compound miter saw.

Here's a hint: the TRUCK is worth more than the tools, so either one is just as good.

ZathrusMarch 3, 2008 4:41 PM

RFID in airport baggage handling, while not commonplace yet, is also nothing new; there are many airports worldwide that use it currently (Hong Kong for example). It's also far from fool proof, since you run into problems with weak returns, too many returns, signal bouncing, etc. Most airports just use hand held bar code scanners to scan the bag tags that the friendly agent attaches to your bags when you check in (or at the gate, in the case of gate-checked baggage).

Relatively few airports, particularly in the US, use a baggage management system though. A good BMS will track bags throughout the airport, on arriving and departing flights, in containers, etc. and will work with the flight data feeds to keep planes from departing with missing bags, the wrong bags, etc. It also lets airlines ensure the passenger and bags stay together (if you've ever been in Gatwick and heard the "last call for John Smith Flight XYZ; your bags are being identified now for removal from the plane prior to departure" then you know what I mean). It will also issue alerts if bags take too long between checkpoints (indicating that someone probably took the bag off the belt and is liberating it of your possessions).

Disclosure -- I work for a company that provides a BMS to airlines and airports worldwide. And I code the software, so I am a bit biased.

Scott KMarch 3, 2008 5:34 PM

I saw a college project involving automated book check-in and check-out of a bookshelf, via RFID tagging. (At least, it tracks which books are present, though not who took them or where they went.)

one_thousand_lies_of_lightMarch 3, 2008 5:44 PM

To the powers that be:

Quit teasing us, we know you want to sell us the idea of a mandatory implantable ID chip, just introduce it already, do you really believe the majority of fat, lazy, stupid Americans will reject it? Hell no! Add some advertisements from celebrities to go along with it, and some Pepsi, Coke, and Burger King bonus awards to redeem once the chip is implanted, activated, and registered with the mother ship.

Or do we still have about 10 years or so of dumbing down to do before we will be at the point where we'll accept it without questioning?

A few more fake moon landings, perhaps?

Go ahead, chip us! We're waiting, just get it over with, I'm tired of waiting!

ZathrusMarch 3, 2008 10:36 PM

Oh, I forgot to mention -- the RFIDs being used in baggage are passive and part of the same bag tag that is currently used; so once you get to your destination take off the bag tag and the RFID tag is gone.

They are using active RFID as well, but only on airline containers (which your luggage gets loaded into, and then put on the plane).

NotParanoidMarch 4, 2008 12:31 AM

There are, undoubtedly, myriad good uses for RFID technology. They are, as someone mentioned, today's barcodes. Track my bags? Great. (But how will they help stop the pilferage from our unlocked bags?) Tags on the products I buy for inventory and pricing functions. Fine. But each and every tag must be deactivated before it leaves the store and no way, no how should my personal/financial info be associated with a tag. Coincidentally, there was an article in the IHT today about the uses of RFID technology to keep me from purchasing a polka dot tie with a striped shirt. About the argument to deactivate the tags, one person's FUD response was, "If we have to deactivate at the check-out... They're going to kill the technology." In other words, if they can't keep the tags active after they leave the store, then the tags are useless to them. Now let's all put our heads together and see if we can think up a reason they might want to keep the tags viable outside the store...

SkorjMarch 4, 2008 1:53 AM

"Now let's all put our heads together and see if we can think up a reason they might want to keep the tags viable outside the store..."

One obvious reason to keep the tags viable past the register is to scan them at the exit door to detect shoplifting. Beyond that i think we're in "fake moon landing" territory.

[he says, carefully clicking the post button just once]

SteveJMarch 4, 2008 4:27 AM

"One obvious reason to keep the tags viable past the register is to scan them at the exit door to detect shoplifting"

No - to detect shoplifting you only need tags on things which *haven't* been purchased, not also on things which have been purchased. Stuff which belongs to the customer, whether they brought it in with them, or have just purchased it, simply doesn't need a tag. You could fry the chip at the checkout and still detect shoplifters.

Here in the UK at least, plenty of stores use bulky magnetic tags on high-value, commonly-stolen articles (CDs, DVDs, games, clothes, expensive alcohol), with detectors at the exits. They take them off at the till, not at the store exit. If it didn't work, they wouldn't already be doing it.

Of course, shoplifters can fry RFID chips too, and probably will if they're trying to make a career of it. But you can't automatically detect the absence of tags, so there's no good defence against that unless you want to start frisking your customers. Stores very much don't want to do that.

I suspect that the main reason to leave the tags viable is the time/effort it would take at the checkout to kill them. And if stores say they'll deactivate the RFID, then they need to be pretty sure that their killer works close to 100% of the time, or some customer is going to find one that slipped through and create yet more negative publicity.

AnonymousMarch 4, 2008 5:46 AM

@NotParanoid, Skorj:

Fortunately, we don't need to speculate on the reason. The AutoID center, God bless 'em, had their web server insecurely configured and someone was able to obtain many confidential internal documents which explained it all. They have all been archived at cryptome, if you'd like to read them yourself.

The foamy mouthed, ranting paranoid fears turned out to be basically true: the main purpose of the EPC (product barcode) flavour of RFID is to create an omnipresent, universal consumer tracking database and sell the information to whoever wants it & can pay. The line that it's just a barcode for the 21st century was invented by a PR firm as one way to "pacify consumer resistance".

This shouldn't be surprising: it is not for nothing that they have spent so much research on how to create a vast distributed database capable of real time responses to such an enormous number of queries per second -- a colossally expensive undertaking which serves absolutely no purpose for store inventory management.

AnonymousMarch 4, 2008 7:50 AM


"They have all been archived at cryptome, if you'd like to read them yourself."

And just in case Skorj can't find them:

http://cryptome.org/rfid-docs.htm

A well known binding between an RFID to both class and specific instance of a product (and thence to value, and individual owner) is blatantly idiotic from the perspective of any rational consumer. Of course, it is a panoptic gold-mine that would give a hard-on to the managers of the coming age of pervasive customer surveillance.

Lis RibaMarch 4, 2008 11:02 AM

I'll gladly pay for a an RFID tag/reader system that I can put on my bags and then track while waiting for them.

I was thinking the same thing. Sounds like there's a market!

They need to adapt this for surgical tools and materials, to avoid the occasional sponge or forceps left in a patient!
I believe that's already under development.

AnonymousMarch 4, 2008 12:06 PM

"I'll gladly pay for a an RFID tag/reader system that I can put on my bags and then track while waiting for them."

Always-on cell-based auto-responder with GPS. You dial it up, it tells you its GPS location, your phone shows it on a map. No RFID needed.

RFID would suck for this because of limited range and passive nature.

AnonymousMarch 4, 2008 12:11 PM

Re RFID'ed shirts & ties.

How does it know whether I intend to wear them at the same time?

I smell a market for RFID-tag reader/zapper devices: Radio Shack $19.95.

ZathrusMarch 4, 2008 3:30 PM

"Always-on cell-based auto-responder with GPS."

Er, you do realize that most baggage handling systems are wholly within the airport, sometimes BENEATH the airport, and so unlikely to receive GPS signals, right? Heck, sometimes you can't even get cell signals.

And I suspect that if any security personnel found such a device in your bags you and your bags just might end up missing your flight while they try and figure out if you were going doing a "trial run".

Nicholas JordanMarch 6, 2008 6:41 AM

@Kaszeta at March 3, 2008 09:29 AM

Machinery always create(s) a hazardous environment that taxes even the best safety procedures and programs, but weasels don't get sucked up in jet engines. It is telling of the funding process that propeller-driven craft are cited as the risk. Even User Izatwit can see a rapidly rotating propeller, most of the risk comes from jet intake - no ? Do you have any numerics on the risk ?

Laëtitia CharrierMarch 7, 2008 6:53 AM

In your blog, you mention the benefits the RFID technology can bring about to the business world, both for the automatic inventory and the better tracking of lost luggage. Last November, EPCglobal Inc., the leader in the development of industry-driven standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) to support the use of RFID, has created a new awareness-raising website entitled www.DiscoverRFID.org to explain the consumer benefits coming from different RFID applications from. Any comments you may have can be posted on the website (section “Contact��?) and will be more than welcome.

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