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Brazil's Von Braun Labs Brings New Secure UHF Chip, Solutions to U.S.

The new 2014B IC, designed for tolling applications, supports 128-bit encryption and, the company says, the ability to be read at highway speeds.
By Claire Swedberg

The new AVI 2014B chip was developed as a solution to two impediments to adoption for toll collection and automotive identification via RFID, says Arthur Henrique César de Oliveira, Von Braun Labs' design manager: the high cost of tags and security vulnerabilities. Existing passive tags for automotive ID purposes cost about $4 apiece in Brazil, but do not offer any security when the tags are interrogated, and an eavesdropper could thus capture a tag's ID number during transmission and clone that tag. On the other hand, battery-powered tags come with greater security but cost even more—usually around $10 to $15 each.

For toll service providers in Brazil, this can prove too expensive if they are providing thousands of tags to motorists in their service area.

Dario Sassi Thober
Despite the high costs of the semi-active and previous passive tags, the adoption of RFID-based electronic toll collection has expanded in Brazil. Initially deployed only in São Paulo, the technology is now being installed within all of the country's 26 states (under an official program regulated and developed by the Brazilian National Agency for Terrestrial Transportation), says César de Oliveira, with a variety of kinds of interoperable solutions involving tag and reader vendors, as well as software integrators, participating in the rollout. The system enables the collection of vehicle IDs without operators having to slow down while driving through a tollbooth.

Brazilian toll service providers began supplying semi-passive UHF 915 MHz toll tags to vehicle owners in 2012. Service providers are expected to see the cost of their infrastructures lower as a result of the new secure passive tags, Thober reports.

In addition, Thober says, automotive insurance companies are beginning to consider business models in which vehicle manufacturers in Brazil would incorporate a low-cost passive UHF RFID label into each vehicle so that the car can be uniquely identified via a reader—not just for toll collection, but also for registration and parking applications and or for identifying a stolen vehicle.

Von Braun Labs also coordinated the Brasil-ID project and provided its passive UHF chip to track the movement of cargo, such as food, electronics, pharmaceuticals and cigarettes, through the supply chain. In November 2014, several transportation companies began using the RFID technology to identify trucks and their cargo at key points in their journey through Brazil, including using the electronic tolling RFID readers already installed for toll collection.

In the future, Von Braun Labs intends to focus its efforts on building software solutions. As hardware with advanced security becomes less expensive, he predicts, RFID use cases will be found in industries and parts of the world in which it has previously been less feasible. "Our focus is on changing the dynamics of the RFID industry," Thober states, "not just for vehicles but, really, tracking everything." He suggests that if a company uses ultra-low-cost reading devices (such as a dongle reader with a smartphone or tablet) to interrogate tags, for instance, the cost of an RFID implementation would be accessible to multiple applications.

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