RFID 'kill' option allays consumer privacy fears
Field tests of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology performance in retail store check-outs are to be carried out by NCR and the Auto-ID Center, using simulated store environments. The trials include much-needed 'kill' options for use by consumers and retailers to address consumer privacy fears.
Following lively debates in the global media, the new test programme has been designed to learn more about the potential for retail store checkout solutions based on RFID technology, specifically including methods of protecting consumers' privacy, such as a 'kill' switch built into each chip tag.
RFID tags can store and transmit an electronic product code (EPC) that provides a unique ID for any object in a supply chain, whether that object is a complete pallet, a case of goods, or even an individual product.
Testing needed Expected to begin shortly, the tests will take place in a simulated store environment at the Auto-ID Center's Massachusetts Institute of Technology facilities.
"As RFID systems continue to improve and tags become cheaper, the extension of the EPC network to retail point-of-sale (PoS) applications moves closer to reality," said Auto-ID Center executive director, Kevin Ashton. "This test is an essential next step in fine-tuning the technology for the benefit of both consumers and retailers."
Retail store automation firm, NCR, which is a founding sponsor of the Auto-ID Center, is to supply the test facility with its RealScan 'hybrid' scanner which can read both RFID tags and bar codes. The firm will also install and support EasyPoint self-service kiosks and application software for the test.
Kill switches now reality The test will include 'kill' options that can be employed, if consumers want them, to erase the information held on the tags. "We understand the concerns of some consumers regarding RFID and privacy, and we plan to evaluate several approaches that address this issue," explained Chris Herwig, director of technology management for NCR's retail solutions division.
"One of these approaches involves erasing EPCs at the checkout as a transaction is being completed by a cashier," added Herwig, offering some hope for consumer action groups that have voiced concerns over the ability to identify individual tags after the point of sale. "We will also test an NCR self-service kiosk that consumers could use themselves to kill tags, or to verify that EPCs in product tags have genuinely been erased, or both."