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Brink's Arms Itself with RFID

To thwart robbers, the world's biggest security transportation company has worked with RFID systems provider EM Microelectronic to develop an innovative RFID-enabled money box that self-destructs.
By Bob Violino
Prior to joining Brink's France, Besnard worked as a system architect at RFID system provider Sensormatic, in Boca Raton, Fla. Having developed RFID tracing and tracking systems for Sensormatic, he was familiar with the use of RFID technology for security applications. Brink’s France did not consider any other technologies for the project, Besnard says, because “RFID was the only way to obtain the result we had to look for."
Philippe Besnard

After an exhaustive study of existing technologies and companies, Besnard asked EM Microelectronic—a semiconductor company in Marin, Switzerland, that makes complete RFID systems—to come up with a new solution for destroying funds. The company selected EM Microelectronic because other RFID suppliers could not provide the technology and service that Brink’s needed, he says. EM Microelectronic, he says, specializes in low-cost and ultra-low-power-consumption chips that matched the requirements of the system Brink’s wanted to implement.

“The very low voltage and very low power technology is a key advantage for this project,” says an EM Microelectronic spokesman. He says the system requires minimum-size batteries that operate for at least two years, which keeps maintenance costs at an acceptable level. Because the semiconductor company's product development is focused mostly on passive RFID technology, says the spokesman, it had to draw upon the expertise of its various business units to create the system for Brink’s.

With the system that EM Microelectronic developed, funds are carried in a B-Box (or Brink’s Box), a 560mm by 250mm by 150mm plastic-clad case that can hold as many as 4,000 notes. The box's metallic interior is designed to withstand the chemical reaction, which can cause the temperature to reach 200 degrees Celsius. Incorporated into the box are an active RFID tag and a device loaded with chemicals that destroys banknotes when triggered.

A Brink’s employee puts money in the B-Box corresponding to the customer requirements, which are stored in a back-office application and transmitted to the employee's handheld PDA. The back office application calculates a unique code, which will be used later to open the B-Box, and transmits that code to the B-Box via a 125-KHz short-distance RFID reader (10 cm). The back-office application determines the opening code using several parameters: the B-Box's tag number, the customer's ID code, the number of an RFID tag assigned to the customer and the PDA ID. The employee closes the B-Box, which becomes armed automatically in self-protection mode. While in this mode, the B-Box will destroy its contents if anyone tries to open it by force.

The Brink's employee loads B-Boxes onto the armored truck, which can hold as many as 30 B-Boxes and has a long-distance (five-meter) 868-MHz RFID reader. The truck's reader sends a periodic message to all the B-Boxes, each of which is waiting for the periodic message. If someone tries to remove a B-Box from the area or if the truck's reader is destroyed, the B-Box doesn’t receive the periodic message. After a predetermined time (for example 20 seconds), each B-Box triggers its own destruction. If the truck is attacked, the driver may also trigger the destruction.

Brink’s avoids signal interference or accidental blocking of the signal that would trigger destruction of the funds, because the transmission is based on spatial diversity and the system employs two antennas that are used alternatively, the EM Microelectronic spokesman says. Also, an encoding scheme is used in order to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio.

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