Feelings of Insecurity

By Mark Roberti

RFID is proving to be an important tool in our defensive arsenal.

It's been more than five years since Sept. 11, when the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history. While New York has not sustained another attack in that period, London, Madrid, Bali and many other locations have been hit. Countries around the world are focused on keeping terrorists and their weapons of mass destruction at bay, and they're watching the measures being taken in the United States, including the use of technology, to secure its borders.

Radio frequency identification technology holds great potential for security applications. Early tests show that shippers can seal cargo containers with RFID tags that can alert security personnel if the containers were tampered with. And passports embedded with RFID chips, which store biometric ID data, can help customs agents better screen people as they cross international borders.

But as our cover story points out, RFID alone cannot secure the borders. RFID systems must be combined with other technologies, and they need to be made more secure. It's also clear that using RFID to track people will continue to arouse controversy.

The Auto-ID Lab at the University of Adelaide is developing encryption techniques that promise to make the use of RFID more secure, and some companies have launched pilots to test how well RFID can secure shipments. But most companies are focused on gaining supply-chain efficiencies, and they're starting to roll out RFID to manufacturing plants, distribution centers or retail stores. Our story "Plan an RFID Rollout That Stays on Track" provides a step-by-step guide for installing RFID portal systems that will help you avoid pitfalls and keep the cost of your rollout down.

Automobile manufacturers have been using RFID for more than a decade in car immobilizers. During that period, the industry has changed greatly, with competition from vehicle makers in Asia and the sourcing of parts from around the world. Our Vertical Focus in this issue looks at how the world's leading automakers are using RFID to help address some inefficiencies in the manufacture of cars.

Technology alone is unlikely to solve every supply-chain problem, keep every terrorist out of a country or prevent a bomb from being put in a cargo container. But open, democratic, capitalistic societies can't protect themselves without the aid of technology. RFID is proving to be an important tool in our defensive arsenal.