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NXP and Kestrel Partner on RFID Antitheft for DVDs

NXP and Kestrel Wireless have teamed to provide an elegant RFID-based solution to combat the theft of optical media products like DVDs. Using RFID chips, the solution allows optical media manufacturers to disable their products at the point of manufacture, then re-enable them at the moment of purchase.
May 10, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 10, 2007—Semiconductor firm NXP Semiconductors (formerly Philips Semiconductors) and a company called Kestrel Wireless have teamed to provide an elegant RFID-based solution to combat the theft of optical media products like DVDs.

Using RFID chips from NXP and Kestrel's proprietary Radio Frequency Activation (RFA) technology, the solution allows optical media manufacturers to disable their products at the point of manufacture, then re-enable them at the moment of purchase. Thus, throughout the entire supply chain all the way to the retail shelf, DVDs are rendered unusable and essentially valueless to would-be thieves. The system is not unlike when a bank issues its customer a new credit card by postal mail. The receiving customer must activate the credit card by an authentication phone call to the bank. Until that call is made, the card is merely a useless piece of plastic that has no value if it is intercepted or stolen in transit.

While the RFA solution will be initially targeted at optical media, the companies indicate that it has application to a wide variety of high-value consumer electronics, including MP3 players, electric shavers, toothbrushes, flat screen TVs, ink jet cartridges, and flash memory.

The solution works through a combination of RFID chips, reader-enabled point-of-sale devices, and Kestrel's verification network. RFA-enabled RFID chips are embedded within products that the manufacturer wishes to protect. The protection mechanism of the RFID chip is activated by RF signal from an RFID reader that is connected to the Kestrel network, rendering the product unusable. Later, at point-of-sale all the way on the other end of the supply chain, an RFID reader that is also connected to the Kestrel network (or a local proxy) scans the product and sends key identification back to the network to be processed. Assuming the identification data passes the verification test, the reader deactivates the RFID chip's protection mechanism, essentially "turning on" the product for use by the purchasing customer.

NXP cites statistics that almost 9% of newly released DVDs are stolen. Additionally, a high incidence of theft can result in 5 to 15% higher sticker prices to compensate for losses. "We are excited by the promise of these types of solutions. DVD and video game theft is a problem that has gone on far too long and at a cost of millions of dollars annually," commented Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA).

In addition to combating theft, NXP and Kestrel note that the solution can minimize certain bulky antitheft packaging, which offers the environmental benefits of less materials and waste while also allowing manufacturers to design more consumer-friendly packaging. Less packaging also improves merchandising by enabling retailers to display more product on their store shelves.

All told, the NXP-Kestrel solution is a compelling one in its simplicity. And from the point of view of the wider RFID industry, it represents yet another positive step toward the eventuality of widespread item-level tagging.

Read the announcement from NXP and Kestrel Wireless
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