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February 20, 2004

Take Two RFIDs and ..........


We wrote a couple of weeks ago about the coming age of micro tracking devices, the size of a grain of rice, small enough to.... well, small enough to swallow without knowing. <a href="http://radio.weblogs.com/0130824/2004/02/06.html#a45" RFID's: Get Ready for Your Own Personal Jammer</a> .  But no, not even in our own radical proposal for the need for your own personal jamming system did we predict that someone would seriously propose embedding a micro radio transmitter on a chip into every pharmaceutical product.



That was until yesterday, when, over a leisurely cup of breakfast coffee, there was the Washington Post quoting Federal Drug Administration Commissioner Mark McClennan: 



"The makers of tracking devices have been experimenting with radio frequency computer chips, smaller than a grain of rice, that would be attached to drug labels or drug boxes, or even embedded in the medication itself. McClellan said tests are underway to determine the effect of the chips on the drugs' effectiveness and quality." <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52784-2004Feb18.html">FDA Looks to Chips to Thwart Drug Counterfeiters (washingtonpost.com)</a>


And so even before the first supply chain instantiation using RFIDs gets onto a pallet rolling into a Wal-Mart near you, the government has already moved this to a whole new application area. RFID's will be used, according to the FDA proposal to protect against pharmaceutical piracy.  The Washington Post quote came as the result of a press conference where the FDA released an important report entitled "Combating Counterfeit Drugs" http://www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/counterfeit/report02_04.pdf.


People who have been wrestling over the implications of digital rights management (DRM) and piracy in the music and movie industry will chuckle as they read the report.  The FDA is now grapling with the intricacies of the spy vs. spy syndrome; i.e.. will potential counterfeiters smart enough to make copies of $6 pills not be smart enough to get their hands on the very RFID technology that the industry will use?  And so the FDA proposal starts to move even further down the slope of steganography and encoded messages whose very transmission must be kept hidden in order to be effective.  Imagine the implications!


In the meantime, as we predicted there is a bright future for the RFID industry.  By 2007 the database and tracking applications will be in place and we can expect integration with existing supply chain applications.  This should promise to become a multibillion industry for system integrators like Accenture (the FDA partner in this study) and IBM with a tsunami of database application upgrades worldwide.  In this light, it is easy to see Oracle's Larry Ellison's interest in buying Peoplesoft.


RFID's have hardly caught the public's attention but as we said in our previous article, the tiny chips with antennas are destined to get ever closer to getting under our own skins.  But if the industry has anything to learn, it should be the lessons of the same FDA and genetic food labeling.  Imagine, when someone with a slightly bigger megaphone than ours, gets wind of this latest proposal.  Either it's a wonder how these guys even manage to find their way to work or it's a greater wonder how tone-deaf the standard media is to the intricacies of introducing radical new technologies into the mainstream (no pun intended).


rmb   


dymaxionweb@verizon.net


Copyright 2004 Richard Mendel-Black All Rights Reserved


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Posted by dymaxion at 05:15 PM


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Take Two RFIDs and ..........


We wrote a couple of weeks ago about the coming age of micro tracking devices, the size of a grain of rice, small enough to.... well, small enough to swallow without knowing. <a href="http://radio.weblogs.com/0130824/2004/02/06.html#a45" RFID's: Get Ready for Your Own Personal Jammer</a> .  But no, not even in our own radical proposal for the need for your own personal jamming system did we predict that someone would seriously propose embedding a micro radio transmitter on a chip into every pharmaceutical product.



That was until yesterday, when, over a leisurely cup of breakfast coffee, there was the Washington Post quoting Federal Drug Administration Commissioner Mark McClennan: 



"The makers of tracking devices have been experimenting with radio frequency computer chips, smaller than a grain of rice, that would be attached to drug labels or drug boxes, or even embedded in the medication itself. McClellan said tests are underway to determine the effect of the chips on the drugs' effectiveness and quality." <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52784-2004Feb18.html">FDA Looks to Chips to Thwart Drug Counterfeiters (washingtonpost.com)</a>


And so even before the first supply chain instantiation using RFIDs gets onto a pallet rolling into a Wal-Mart near you, the government has already moved this to a whole new application area. RFID's will be used, according to the FDA proposal to protect against pharmaceutical piracy.  The Washington Post quote came as the result of a press conference where the FDA released an important report entitled "Combating Counterfeit Drugs" http://www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/counterfeit/report02_04.pdf.


People who have been wrestling over the implications of digital rights management (DRM) and piracy in the music and movie industry will chuckle as they read the report.  The FDA is now grapling with the intricacies of the spy vs. spy syndrome; i.e.. will potential counterfeiters smart enough to make copies of $6 pills not be smart enough to get their hands on the very RFID technology that the industry will use?  And so the FDA proposal starts to move even further down the slope of steganography and encoded messages whose very transmission must be kept hidden in order to be effective.  Imagine the implications!


In the meantime, as we predicted there is a bright future for the RFID industry.  By 2007 the database and tracking applications will be in place and we can expect integration with existing supply chain applications.  This should promise to become a multibillion industry for system integrators like Accenture (the FDA partner in this study) and IBM with a tsunami of database application upgrades worldwide.  In this light, it is easy to see Oracle's Larry Ellison's interest in buying Peoplesoft.


RFID's have hardly caught the public's attention but as we said in our previous article, the tiny chips with antennas are destined to get ever closer to getting under our own skins.  But if the industry has anything to learn, it should be the lessons of the same FDA and genetic food labeling.  Imagine, when someone with a slightly bigger megaphone than ours, gets wind of this latest proposal.  Either it's a wonder how these guys even manage to find their way to work or it's a greater wonder how tone-deaf the standard media is to the intricacies of introducing radical new technologies into the mainstream (no pun intended).


rmb   


dymaxionweb@verizon.net


Copyright 2004 Richard Mendel-Black All Rights Reserved


If you would like to receive the DymaxionWeb musings directly to your e-mail box, please provide your email address in the subscribe box below.



If you would like to reproduce any DW postings you  must include the source of your quote and an email address
dymaxionweb@verizon.net.  Please refer to the Creative Commons License at the bottom of the page.


 



 


 



 

Posted by dymaxion at 05:15 PM


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February 06, 2004

RFID's: Get Ready for Your Own Personal Jammer

 


Since we tend to be "big picture" kind of observers here at the Dymaxion Web, we couldn't help but be intrigued all week with the list of "supertrends" that John Mauldin presented in his most recent weekly newsletter.  The problem, we noted, at least to ourselves, is that there are more blind spots in any crystal ball we've seen than in my father's torpedo-back 1962 Mustang.  Trends, we tried to note, are a lot like covert attempts to change the world, they inherently hide reactions or blowback, as it has come to be called.  We are, it seems, students of blowback.


So, in that spirit, we mused in the DM last Monday, entitled "Antidote to Disinformation", that perhaps the aging of populations in the developed world, especially insular Japan where immigration is culturally difficult, might result in a major push towards robotic systems.  The Japanese have certainly proved their ability to miniaturize electronic and mechanical systems, which after all is what robotics is all about.


Another problem with any list of "supertrends" is, of course, the prismatic effect; i.e., we reflect what we are looking at  based on pre-engineered edges and surfaces. So, Mauldin, one of the more astute observers, talked little about the disruptive impact that ever-enhanced micro-information gathering will have on business, science and society.


In order for a disruptive technology to reach its time, a whole bunch of base technologies have to be firmly in place.  In the case of micro-information, first you must have a high capacity, low cost network (the Internet), fast central processors (64-bit chips), low cost storage, ubiquitous wireless capacity and finally cheap intelligent chip manufacturing processes.


Welcome to 2004, the year of the RFID. or Radio Frequency IDentification. Whether you know it or not, you may already have a RFID in your life.  Certainly, if you drive often up and down the East Coast you have probably installed an EZ-Pass on your windshield.  If you are driving a Ford car or truck you may now have RFID's imbedded in your tires.


RFID's are tiny chips that can store information and transmit that data through built-in wireless transmission capability.  Their enormous potential to be a disruptive force lies in their tiny size (small enough to tag onto, say, a shirt label) their low cost to produce (less than a penny apiece) their data storage capacity (a magnitude greater than those striped bar codes they are replacing) and their intrinsic design that allows them to receive power from the receivers they talk to (no batteries required and so no half-lives to contend with). Like sleeper cells they only come to life when they receive an order from a master device.


Of course, if a technology doesn't have a market it might impress the Slashdot crowd but have little impact on everybody else's lives.  But this is not the case with RFID's in 2004.  Perhaps the two largest market forces in the country, the government and the consumer space are both taking giant steps into RFID's.  First, Wal-Marts has told its 100 largest suppliers that they must start attaching RFID's to items, boxes, crates, pallet-loads and containers.  The Department of Defense, has also announced that it too will start converting its supply chain to a RFID based system.


The business implications cannot be exaggerated.  With the backing of Wal-Mart and the DOD, it is only a matter of time before most car, appliance, furnishing and consumer goods will all have been tagged down to the component level.  For chip makers this will be a massive new  business. System integrators already in the supply chain management business will reap a windfall of new business as the information for these chips gets integrated into institutional logistics systems.  The crush of so much new data will reverberate back into computer and network sales that will benefit traditional IT companies like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco.


But there are even larger societal implications.  There has probably never been a greater threat to personal privacy than the influx of these devices into every corner of our lives.  When Benetton announced a couple of years ago that they were going to start using RFID's in the labels of their clothing, there was a pubic uproar aa people were made aware that somebody would be able to know, as went the old public service ad, it's 10 PM, where their socks, sweaters and underwear are.  So Benetton pulled back.  And so we can expect to hear assurances from other retailers that RFID's will be disabled, like those antitheft devices, at the point of sale.  At face value.... end of case.


But does that mean, however, that while you are in the store they won't be tracking, say, what aisles you walk up, what items you finger to check price, ingredients, what signs you stop to read, etc?  You get the picture!  After all, you probably are carrying one of their discount cards on you and its likely those cards will get their own RFID's as will your credit cards.  And the marketeers are just dying to know a little more about what you're interested in so that perhaps even by the time you get to the cash register they will have a few special offers tailored just for you. Of course, they might just invite you to opt in to that program with the promise of personally tailored specials.


But as implied by what went before.  The retail experience is only the tip of the iceberg.  Retailers can make all the assurances you want about your privacy but that will hardly be more than a proverbial finger in the dike of the information leaks that will spring from a world populated with layer upon layer of RFID's.  As we said before, RFID's may already be part of your life, little sleeper spies that can be awakened by anybody with a receiver and an understanding of their codes.  Nobody is going to want to turn off all these indicators as they come delivered in their appliances.  After all, they will have their functions, they'll tell you when a part needs to be replaced, when there is an update in firmware for your dishwater, when your coffee's cold, when you need to stop on the way home for milk, when there's a flaw in your heating and cooling system, what programs you may want to copy, etc.


RFID's are coming in both above and under the radar.  There will be huge profits and thus huge industry interests in fostering a smooth take off and flight pattern.  As we said above, predicting is a tricky business for those of us not possessing our own crystal balls but we have little doubt that, among all those things we can't imagine, they will also cause a whole new consumer technology to be born:  your own personal jammer.  Expect to see it on the "Coming Soon" menu of a wireless PDA near you.


    rmb



dymaxionweb@verizon.net


Copyright 2003 Richard Mendel-Black All Rights Reserved


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must include the source of your quote and an email address
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Posted by dymaxion at 04:39 PM


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