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Airgate Offering Product Authentication Platform

The system is based on tags and interrogators using Hitachi's tiny µ-chip.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 06, 2007Since Hitachi first announced its µ-chip (pronounced "mew-chip") in 2003, the super-small integrated circuit designed for RFID applications has not seen much traction in the United States. The chip operates at 2.45 GHz, can be read from up to roughly 12 inches (30 cm) and holds up to 128 bits of data.

The tag's ID is permanently written and cannot be altered, and the chip does not support an anticollision protocol (which allows the simultaneous reading of multiple tags). Consequently, it is not easily adapted to the types of supply-chain applications for which EPC tags are widely used. However, says Mike Sheriff, president and CEO of Airgate Technologies, the 0.4mm-square chip can be embedded into any object, including paper, and its 128 bits of memory can be used for trillions of unique IDs without duplication, making the µ-chip an attractive tool for authentication applications.

Airgate recently announced the GenuDOT product authentication platform, based on tags carrying the µ-chip. The GenuDOT platform uses inlays and interrogators made for Airgate by Hitachi. Airgate created a Web-based software application to operate on the readers and function as the backbone for the authentication system.

Many end users are using passive HF or UHF tagging systems and encoding unique EPCs to the tags, both for track-and-trace applications and for authentication purposes. Sheriff believes this is the wrong way to go, because the air interfaces are based on open standards (ISO 15693 and ISO 14443 for HF, ISO 18000-6C for UHF). The use of open standards, he says, makes those tags inherently vulnerable to cloning, since someone with an off-the-shelf interrogator could read a number—say, an EPC—off a standard tag used for product authentication, then create another tag using that same number and introduce a fake product into the supply chain. This might even work with encrypted numbers, he adds, if the tag always generates the same encrypted number.

"Our feeling is, encrypted or not, tags that follow published standards are vulnerable to spoofing. You might not be able to read the data, but you can clone it," says Sheriff. "People always say you need open standards, but for a locked-down authentication, you need a proprietary system."

The air-interface protocol used to encode and read Hitachi chips is proprietary, as is the numbering scheme followed by the unique ID encoded to each tag. To deploy the GenuDOT system for an end user, Sheriff says, Airgate will work with Hitachi to designate large batches of IDs for encoding to the tags used to authenticate products. Each of the ID numbers will include special Airgate and Hitachi headers, as well as a unique serial number.


Jonathan Mayes 2007-04-16 01:15:26 AM
Open standards are not secure? Mr Sheriff's comment that "People always say you need open standards, but for a locked-down authentication, you need a proprietary system." is very worrying as it indicates a lack of understanding of how to construct a secure system. Obfuscating the protocol by using proprietary readers does not make a system secure, it just makes it non-compliant.

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