Tag Archives: RFID

Customs Bureau proposes RFID Technology in EU

GPS tracking has long been used for the purpose of tracking cargo shipments. By giving shippers the ability to monitor a cargo location at any point in its journey, tracking technology can save money, prevent theft and smuggling, and ensure timely delivery of cartons around the world. But despite their stellar track record, the devices may soon decline in use, at least among shippers in the European Union.
Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon has proposed that cheaper, less sophisticated radio frequency identification (RFID) technology be used alongside GPS systems in order to evaluate whether the costlier devices actually offer substantial benefit. RFID readers would be installed in ports and warehouses, while cargo shipments would be equipped with chips that could be scanned at each departure and arrival. This information would allow authorities to flag shipments if they took longer than expected to reach an intended destination and to investigate causes for delay.

The problem, in the minds of many industry leaders, is that RFID chips do not provide real-time location information. Unlike GPS devices, RFID technology can only supervise expected arrivals and departures, with no way to pinpoint locations in between. If a shipment is diverted, stolen, or lost, the recovery procedure becomes much more complicated without a real-time location to monitor.
The goal of the Customs Bureau is to increase the security and efficiency of shipping procedures while at the same time reducing costs. If the plan of the Customs Commissioner goes through, it will stipulate that RFID devices be used alongside current GPS technology in order to determine whether GPS tracking could be replaced while still maintaining the same level of security. As departments across the spectrum face budget cuts, Commisioner Biazon must find ways to perform the duties of the Customs Bureau at lower cost.
Proponents of GPS tracking, however, argue that this is one area which cannot afford the decrease in security that would accompany the RFID technology. The EU stands ready to provide logistical information regarding the use of GPS technology in order to demonstrate its benefits as compared to RFID chips and readers. The proposal is still in the information-gathering stage, and no final decisions have been made regarding which steps the Customs Bureau will take. Ultimately, GPS offers the ability to more closely monitor shipments in transit, an essential part of reducing theft and smuggling as shipments enter and leave EU nations.

Photo by Motiqua via Flickr Creative Commons

Tracking Schoolchildren with RFID Technology

In a day and age when parents fear for their children’s safety, one school district has decided to use modern technology to put those fears to rest. Officials state that efficiency is the main reason for the program, but it is hard to imagine that parental concern did not factor into the equation.

Earlier this month, the Middletown school district in Providence, Rhode Island enacted a pilot program that included putting RFID (radio frequency identification) chips in tags that will be attached to children’s schoolbags. This initial trial run will include about 80 children (and their backpacks).

The primary reason for the use of this tracking technology is to track students who take the bus to and from school. The chips will record when students get on and off of the school bus, as well as showing the bus’s position as it travels.

The ACLU has already cried foul.

The pilot program was by no means mandatory and parents were informed ahead of time and told who to contact with any questions. Middletown hopes that the program will foster better communication with parents. Parents involved in the pilot will be able go to a website to see when their child got on the bus and to see if the bus will arrive on time.

One official compared the program to programs that let parents check their child’s attendance record or to see their child purchased for lunch. (Notice I said to see what the child purchased—there really is no way to know what a child actually ate for lunch.)

And isn’t that the point—for all of our sophistication, life is still full of variables. A parent could be checking the website and see that according to the RFID, their child is still in school. At that same moment, the child could be walking through the door, having left the backpack in their classroom.

However, it is also possible that a child could be on a bus that had to take an alternate route because of a traffic accident. The parent who checks the website to see that the bus is going in a different direction can make calls to find out what is going on and be assure that their child is fine.