Nox System Uses RFID to Catch a Thief

The Nox system integrates RFID readers with surveillance cameras to automatically create video records when monitored items are moved. The system was originally developed for the FBI and is now available commercially.
Published: March 30, 2008

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 30, 2008—RFID is widely used to provide visibility of inventory and assets. It is also providing visibility for thieves, as part of an unattended surveillance system.

The Nox system developed by SimplyRFID of Warrenton, Virginia, integrates RFID with surveillance cameras to create a video record of objects being stolen. Organizations apply RFID tags to assets and files they want to protect. RFID readers automatically detect when the objects are being moved and trigger the video camera to record the activity. The system can automatically send alerts by cell phone or pager if a tagged object is moved.

“Theft is a real problem, even for small companies,” SimplyRFID president Carl Brown told RFID Update. “People want to stop and catch theft. They’re finding a lot of value in this system for doing that.”

Nox systems are often installed in situations where employee theft is suspected. Nox tags can be unobtrusively installed on objects as small as a pen and are often undetectable to the naked eye. Gen2 passive RFID is usually used, but other types of RFID, including long-range technologies, are also available.

Objects movements are recorded, time stamped, and archived, to provide a solid video record of activity. Organizations also use Nox to locate misplaced items by consulting video records to determine the object’s last known location.

SimplyRFID originally developed the Nox system for use by the FBI and has since started marketing it commercially. It is targeted to four broad applications:

  1. Protection against theft and misrouting. One method of employee theft is to under-pack goods for shipment, then to sneak out the unpacked goods from the shipping department. A tagged item being read at the shipping dock would not necessarily arouse suspicion, since the tagged item would be expected to be included in a shipment. Nox can prevent this type of theft by creating a video record that can be reviewed to ensure items are indeed packed.
  2. Contraband tracking. Specialized tags are available for money sleeves and drug containers. The longer-range tags can be read at border crossing stations to detect contraband hidden in vehicles or on people.
  3. Evidence room management. RFID tracking and video surveillance creates chain-of-custody documentation while protecting evidence from theft and tampering.
  4. File tracking. The system is effective for file tracking and can reduce lost files by providing video records of a file’s last known location and the person handling it at the time.

SimplyRFID won’t disclose details about its customers, but said they have reported excellent results since implementing the Nox system. “No customer has told us they’ve had a theft since the Nox system was installed,” said Brown.

A Nox system at one company helped catch an employee who was stealing by using the shipping department to send goods to outside addresses, where he would retrieve them later. One such shipment was returned because it had an incorrect shipping address. The company opened the returned package, discovered its stolen goods, then used its Nox records to discover who sent the package.

Companies typically install Nox to monitor their shipping departments and dock doors, according to Brown, who noted the system can also be used to collect data and record shipments. “Organizations can use it to do more than catch crooks,” he said. “But, in general they’re using it to catch crooks.”

Pfefferkorn Spedition, a German freight forwarding company, uses a similar system, albeit with active RFID technology, to record goods leaving its warehouse (see RFID Triggers Video Surveillance for Freight Tracking). The Nox system is also similar in functionality to some of the applications being tested at the University of Washington to measure RFID’s usefulness for locating lost items (see University Launches RFID People Tracking Experiment).