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Companies, Agencies Use Clandestine RFID Systems to Catch Thieves

The NOX system includes RFID readers embedded in walls, surveillance cameras and—in some cases—luminescent dust to track the movement of personnel and assets.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 20, 2008A handful of government agencies and private companies such as electronics suppliers are employing a clandestine RFID system known as NOX that allows them to use RFID interrogators hidden in walls, in conjunction with video surveillance and, in some cases, luminescent dust, to thwart theft or other unauthorized activities within their facilities.

The NOX system is the creation of SimplyRFID, a company based in Warrenton, Va. Founded in 2002 by its president, Carl Brown, SimplyRFID has developed RFID solutions for a number of clients, including Stamps.com, UPS, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and Target, and its Pro-Tags product line is aimed at suppliers to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). During the past few years, Brown says, the company has moved into the clandestine market, following government interest in the use of RFID to prevent theft, or to monitor the movements of personnel wearing RFID-tagged badges.

Carl Brown
Because of its location near Washington, D.C., SimplyRFID attracted the attention of several government agencies, including the FBI, which visited the company's office to purchase RFID readers and tags, but brought the hardware back to their location and installed the equipment themselves. "What we found was that they were happy to have any technology that would help them [with security]," Brown says. So the company began developing a more comprehensive security solution that included RFID with video surveillance and, in some cases, "optically charged" dust that could be tracked with cameras.

The NOX system uses RFID readers that can be embedded in walls, as well as surveillance cameras that can be hidden if so desired by a user. The system integrates the two functions to enable users to track theft or other undesirable behavior on their property. By linking RFID tracking with video footage, Brown says, users can not only know which items might be missing by tracking the locations of their assets, they can also link to video footage to determine what has occurred.

"The big problem in selling RFID is that it is not always a solution by itself," Brown states. Instead, he adds, RFID offers part of a security solution by helping users track activity without requiring them to watch it around the clock. But in conjunction with video surveillance, he says, users have information about activities that have occurred—such as which items were moved, as well as where and at what time—reinforced by a visual image of what transpired.

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