During the RFID Live 2013 conference, I had the opportunity to preview some very significant technology introductions that will be implemented as standard features in both mobile and fixed stationed products very soon. One of the most intriguing innovations is the RFID application that I like to think of as a “kill switch.”
One hardware example taken from the electronics industry would be a power switch controlled by a motion detection device that detects a safety compromise and immediately shuts down the equipment to avoid the loss of limbs or lives. RFID-enabled designs from Intel and Impinj can now implement that mechanically actuated life-saver kill switch concept into an RFID triggered software application that will enable, disable, limit, or expand device features on command.
Intel Corp. has produced a unique tablet reference design incorporating third-party hardware with an application that can lock products in transit. The term “locked-in-transit” will soon become an everyday phrase to describe secured items that cannot be intercepted and used other than by the intended recipient. Because this enable/disable gateway chip is not just a one-time programmable device for transit purposes only, this RFID read-write function can also be modified to turn a laptop containing highly sensitive information into a brick when taken outside of an authorized RFID coverage boundary.
The medical industry spends millions of dollars on recovering from the loss of a laptop containing patient records illegally or accidentally removed from a doctor’s office or car. The CIA and other information sensitive agency could prevent loss of critical documents via storage media copy attempts when removed from a designated area. This would be the case of a hard drive covertly taken off premise to copy. A hard drive with the Intel/Impinj tech would also become a brick under these circumstances and would be virtually inaccessible.
How can anyone overestimate the significance of being able to automatically or remotely turn things on and off at will? This is the prime essence of ultimate control. Control implies power over something or someone and when you have power over a person’s tech gear, in our very connected age of electronics, you have considerable power over the person’s daily routines and communications capabilities. How else might we apply this RFID chip technology?
Imagine you have a “Secret” level clearance but not a “Top Secret” clearance to a building with rooms that have corresponding levels of access required for entry. Your RFID badge can be selectively programmed to allow or disallow access to individual rooms based upon your clearance level. That really isn’t anything new, but get this. You are a Top Secret guy but you do not have the “need-to-know authorization” to view particular areas in the room, so your RFID tag becomes an electronic gate that you cannot go through without triggering an alert. Let’s take it one step further. You can go anywhere in any room but you cannot take any pictures. Now the RFID chip in your camera, phone camera, or tablet is automatically programmed by an RFID write function to disable your camera application in your device but leave every other feature intact. This is approaching six sigma security assurance.
Don’t you just hate it when the airlines tells everyone to shut down wireless devices during take-off and there is always one person who just keeps talking or texting on their phone? You want to give them the benefit of the doubt so you lean gently over and tell them that the announcement just said to turn off their device. They give you a look as if you just rolled in a pile of dead fish and subsequently dismiss you out-of-hand. They just keep talking and talking or texting and texting. At this point several unkind words begin to form themselves into unkind sentences in your mind and you want to say something but for the sake of the children within hearing distance, you stave off the urge to verbally assault the offender.
Now, if they had the Intel design with the Impinj chip inside of that device, the pilot could send a signal to cut off and power down the device without having to deal with the inconsiderate passenger. Take your phone into a movie theater and the ringer is silenced when you pass through the movie RFID enabled door entrance. The silent alert feature is still functioning in case a doctor is in the house and needs to be contacted for an emergency.
One of the biggest distractions for students is all of the social networking during class hours. The school, equipped with the RFID enable/disable technology could enforce their “no texting” rules without having to approach every offender individually. With limiting features on mobile devices, the screen capture features can be selectively disabled for particular email transmissions to help secure one-to-one classified documents. The mobile device acts more like a radio in real time rather than a recording device.
Where will this all lead? Your imagination is the limit. Police now forbid phone camera use at crime scenes but that law is virtually impossible to enforce. Bootlegged audio and video recordings at live concerts or first-run movies could be minimized to help protect music and film copyrights.
I personally, having been the victim of identity theft, like the idea of having an Impinj embedded credit card where I can remotely kill my card with an encrypted, cloud resident PIN. I would have liked a remote kill switch that would have exploded my stolen iPad, sprayed bright fluorescent red paint, and screamed an audio message like, “HEY! THIS BRIGHT RED GUY IS A DIRTY SO AND SO iPAD THIEF…just before exploding, of course.
Unfortunately we just can’t have everything. But the time is coming when the RFID chip in your hand will be all you will need to buy, sell, enable, disable, access, locate, communicate, or open channels granting you well-earned privilege access levels for work and play opportunities.