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NFC Speeds Up Authentication for Race Car Drivers

For the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile championships, motorsport equipment company Fyshe is supplying RFID-tagged race suits that can be authenticated via an app and an NFC-enabled smartphone.
By Claire Swedberg

Once a driver participating in the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone (held on Apr. 15-17, 2016) received the NFC-enabled Smart Suit, he could use any NFC-enabled Android phone loaded with the Otentico app to read that suit's tag ID. The app then displayed data about that particular suit, confirming its authenticity. Inspectors (known as "scrutineers") at the championship race used the app to confirm that each driver had an approved adidas race suit from Fyshe, by simply opening the app, holding the phone in front of the hologram, where the tag was embedded, and viewing the relevant data displayed on their phone screens.

Drivers on the Dempsey-Proton Racing, Abu Dhabi–Proton Racing and KCMG teams first wore the Smart Suits during the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone. For each suit, Fyshe personalized the information linked to its tag, including the driver's name, the team, the season and pictures of that suit's unique design.

When a smartphone reads a race suit's RFID tag, the Otentico app displays the driver's name and team, along with other information.
Fyshe now embeds Otentico NFC RFID tags in all of its suits, and Otentico software stores data for users of the app. Once race car drivers started using the app, Nurse says, they began thinking of other ways in which to use the technology. Drivers liked the idea of storing their medical records and linking that information with their suit data, he reports. In that way, if a driver was involved in an accident during the race, medics or other personnel could read the tag on that individual's suit, and his medical information could be displayed on their phones. For instance, if a driver were allergic to penicillin, that information would be available immediately.

Allergies and other medical data, however, would not be something that the Otentico app would store. Rather, this information would need to be managed by medical responding agencies or a group like FIA. "Because such data is private and sensitive, it would be stored partially on highly encrypted chips and partially on the secured servers," Nurse states. "And it would only be made available to authorized medical teams."

Fyshe is a distributor of helmets as well, and has been in discussions with its helmet manufacturer in Japan about applying an NFC chip to each helmet sold to a driver. Someone could read a helmet's tag not only to prove its authenticity, but also to view its expiration date. Helmets can only be used for a specific amount of time before they expire, and by entering the expiration data into the Otentico software and linking that information to the tag's ID, inspectors and drivers could quickly determine if a helmet was expired prior to each race.

To date, drivers have been enthusiastic about the RFID tags, Nurse says, adding that Fyshe plans to explore other ways in which NFC can be used with its products. "[NFC] is something we wanted to do because it's interesting from a technological point of view," he notes, "but we're also looking at ways to use wearable technologies."

"When you first put a new product out there," Nurse states, "customers start to provide feedback about its use, and new applications are identified. This creates a virtuous circle of ideas and innovation." Fyshe plans to continue entertaining those ideas in its search for ways to expand the NFC use case.

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