Radio frequency identification
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a method based on storing and automatically retrieving identification data transmitted over the radio frequency spectrum. Devices called "RFID transponders", "RFID tags" or "chips" are transponders that transmit the stored information to a remote sensing device. An RFID tag can be attached to or embedded in a product, or implanted in an animal, or a person, for the purpose of identification.
RFID is used to time sporting events, inventory control, and the collection of tolls on highways.
RFID tags require a small amount of power to transmit their identification number. Active RFID tags include a power source (typically a button battery) which enables active broadcast of its ID. Passive RFID tags contain no power source, and must therefore passively rely on an external power source to activate. When the transceiver comes in range of a reader, the RFID chip powers up using the inductive charge from the reader, and transmits its ID. This passive kind of RFID chip never runs out of power and is very small. It is therefore typically favored for key FOBs, ID cards, passports, shipping labels, clothes, and other small objects.
While larger and in need of power at all times, active RFID has the benefit of range. It can be easily read from across a room, or from the side of a road. They typically still do not require much power to do this, so their batteries can generally last for several years.
The increasing use of RFID tags has come under intense scrutiny, especially as companies are beginning to use them to track consumer purchases in stores, and as the development of injectable RFID tags (in pets, and even in humans) is becoming a reality. Many Christians see this as related to the Mark of the Beast prophesied in the Book of Revelation, and the book Spychips by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre (ISBN 0-452-28766-9) was a recent best-seller warning of the potential issues with RFID tags.
RFID chips are considered a means of unique identification, and therefore an acceptable method to use for exchange money, operating physical locks (including those of automobiles), and securing digital assets. However, these chips can be read from a distance by someone with the right (inexpensive) equipment and some ill intent. All that must be done in many cases is for a criminal to either read a chip and then make a copy (again, not an expensive of difficult process) or to relay the lock's signal to the distant RFID fob and back again, tricking the lock into thinking that the fob is nearby. In the case of ID cards and debit/credit cards, the criminal does not even need to recreate the RFID chip or signal in order to steal private information such as credit card numbers.
- Albrecht, Katherine and Liz McIntyre. Spychips. Plume/Penguin Books, 2006 (paperback); Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005 (hardcover).