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RFID Security With a Smile

To outsmart hackers, smart security systems are combining RFID with video and biometric technology.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 11, 2007— Don't be surprised if, in the near future, you need a key card and a smile to gain entry into your workplace. Security experts say that some smart cards, which have embedded RFID tags, can be easily cloned. An unauthorized person can tap a cloned card to a reader and stroll into an office building or other facility. But security system providers are a step ahead of the hackers. They are combining RFID with video and biometric technology to make security systems safer and even identify potential wrongdoers.

Unisys, a technology consulting and services provider, is testing a security system called TetraGate, developed by epcSolutions, at its Center of Excellence demonstration facility in Reston, Va. Approximately 100 employees have been issued personnel badges that include passive, UHF RFID inlays compliant with the EPCglobal Gen 2 standard. The tags are susceptible to cloning, but the system accounts for that, as well as the possibility that someone might try to enter a facility with a stolen card.

At the entrance to the Reston facility, there is a network of Gen 2 interrogators and a network of surveillance cameras. As a Unisys employee nears the entrance, an interrogator reads the ID number encoded to the badge, which is attached to a lanyard and worn around the neck, and a camera snaps a picture of the employee. Facial recognition software compares the ID and photo with data and a digital image of the employee stored in a database. If there's a match, the door opens. If not, the security system could send an alert to a computer monitor mounted at a security guard's desk.

Systems Solution Co. (SSC), a Corona, Calif., provider of facility security systems, installed the TetraGate system at the Unisys facility and is working with the company to evaluate its effectiveness. A few kinks need to be resolved before the system can be rolled out. For example, if an employee is wearing sunglasses or a hat, the facial recognition software often cannot make a match. One solution SSC is working on is to use fingerprint scans as a second authenticator.

A similar system called RFID Video Verification was developed by ComCam, a West Chester, Pa., provider of video-based surveillance systems, and AAID Security Solutions, a Peachtree, Ga., RFID systems integrator. RFID Video Verification uses active RFID tags and a real-time location system linked to a surveillance camera controller. The system can be used for authenticating and tracking people and assets—and it can associate personnel tags with tagged assets, says ComCam's CEO, Don Gilbreath. For example, a Fortune 100 company is using the system to verify the identities of a small group of executives and the tagged assets they carry into a high-security area on the corporation's campus.

The DC Water and Sewer Authority (DCWASA) in Washington is using RFID Video Verification to track backhoes, hazardous chemicals and other high-value assets as they are moved in and out of a storage yard. Cameras home in on the tagged assets, while specialized software reads the license plate numbers on the trucks moving the assets to check that the trucks are owned by the utility. Eventually, DCWASA may also use facial recognition software and RFID personnel tags to ensure that only authorized personnel are in the yard.

Robert Mitchell, director of Pivot3, a Spring, Texas, provider of video surveillance networks for large urban areas and corporations, says that a number of cargo carriers are testing systems that combine RFID and video surveillance at airport customs facilities, to ensure that only authorized personnel move RFID-tagged parcels containing highly valuable goods such as pharmaceuticals or jewelry. Mitchell says that RFID combined with video and biometric technologies is "going to become a dominant method for tracking assets and personnel."

Who's Who in RFID Security Systems
AAID Security Solutions
Systems Solution Co.
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