Simply attaching an RFID tag to a part would probably not do much to reduce counterfeiting. However, parts manufacturers can provide information to a legitimate user regarding a particular component’s history.
Let’s say a company had purchased refurbished parts that should be taken out of circulation because they have exceeded the number of cycles for which they are allowed to be used. The buyer could read the item’s serial number, access a secure database from the manufacturer, locate the part’s history and determine when it was created, as well as the number of cycles through which it has been put. This could also be accomplished via 2D bar codes or human-readable characters, but bar codes can become destroyed during a part’s lifespan and are easy to fake. Human-readable characters take too long to type into a Web address to be useful.
Boeing and Airbus have been working with the Air Transport Association to develop RFID standards for part marking that would allow a component’s complete history to be stored on a high-memory RFID tag. This memory would be unalterable—that is, you could write information regarding maintenance performed on a particular part, or the number of cycles a part has endured, but once written, that data could not then be altered. This would also make it more difficult to fake airline parts.
Beyond that, GS1 has been working on something known as Discovery Services, which would enable authorized parties to gather information pertaining to where and when a tag was read during its history. This will help to reduce the number of counterfeit parts in circulation—but I caution that I don’t believe anything will completely eliminate this problem. There is a lot of money in counterfeiting, and crooks will eventually find a way around most anti-counterfeiting systems.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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