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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

In the future, Thober predicts, low-cost RFID readers could be installed in appliances, lamp sockets, cars or other equipment that could make RFID tag reading more ubiquitous. Meanwhile, security such as AES encryption would still protect the privacy and security of each RFID tag's owner.

"There are huge gaps to be filled," Thober says. He points out that vehicles, electronics, pharmaceutical products and many other items already come with a label, so simply adding an RFID inlay to those labels would lower the implementation cost far beyond use in vehicles. In other cases, he adds, RFID tags in other shapes and forms can be built as a part of the product, so that the cost of a large-scale RFID application would be further reduced.

Von Braun Labs is not the only company that is marketing a secure IC designed in accordance with GS1's Gen2v2 UHF RFID standard. Last month, NXP Semiconductors announced that its new Ucode DNA chip, which is designed to transmit a dynamic, encrypted password preventing a tag from being read without authorization, while also precluding it from being cloned (see NXP Releases IC for Secure Encrypted UHF Reads). The Ucode DNA IC, which comes with 3 kilobits of memory, is intended for such applications as electronic road tolling, vehicle registration, access control, asset tracking and brand protection, as well as for parking and vehicular license-plate authentication.

Currently, several U.S. tolling agencies are using passive EPC Gen 2 tags (see Efforts to Aid Adoption of ISO 18000-6C RFID for Toll Collection Move Forward). However, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) is seeking to establish a single tolling standard technology, and the outcome of that work might lead to an expansion in the use of passive EPC Gen 2 tags for tolling purposes. The IBTTA's National Toll Interoperability (NIOP) Committee plans to test various RFID technologies this year. The group is reviewing technology based on ISO 18000-6C (essentially the same standard as EPC Gen 2) and ISO 18000-6B (another passive UHF tag standard that has a proprietary air-interface protocol), as well as active RFID tags, such as those being used by Northeastern toll operators belonging to the E-ZPass Interagency Group (IAG), explains Dave Kristick, a member of the NIOP committee. The goal is for the NIOP committee to evaluate the tests results and then recommend a national protocol standard for IBTTA's board to accept by next March, and for IBTTA members to implement by October 2016.

Kristick is also a member of the 6C Toll Operators Committee (6CTOC), a consortium of five toll-collection agencies that use ISO 18000-6C tags and are seeking to encourage all agencies to adopt the technology standard as at least one standard that its RFID readers can read. That would make the use of a 6C tolling tag universal, no matter where a driver drives his or her car. Multiple other agencies have signed on to become non-voting members of the 6CTOC, affording them a view into decisions being made by the group, according to Tyler Patterson, 6CTOC's president. The NXP DNA chip that also features AES security is a 6CTOC-certified chip, he says, while Von Braun Labs' 2014B chip has not yet been tested by the 6CTOC.

Thober notes, however, that Von Braun Labs' chips and solutions "have the AES encryption mechanism implemented according to ISO 18000-6C as custom commands according to the specifications—not only proven by the tests performed at CISC, as well as by working with certified ISO readers from all vendors already in use in Brazil."

In any event, Patterson reports that security in tolling may not be as great a concern for U.S. drivers as it is for those in Brazil, adding that of greater concern would be that a tag can be reliably read at high speeds. Patterson says he is concerned that the security layer might affect the speed at which tags are read. However, Thober indicates that when used for tolling, tags made with its 2014B chip can be interrogated at a rate of 80 to 100 per second.

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