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IT Shrugs Off Criticism of Dual-Purpose RFID Label

By Marc L. Songini
May 7, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

Checkpoint Systems Inc. last week rolled out a line of RFID-enabled labels with both advanced inventory control and item-tracking capabilities. The Thorofare, N.J.-based company said the dual-purpose label will help retailers consolidate their use of radio frequency identification technology.

Checkpoint said the new label, called Evolve, carries an industry-standard Generation 2 RFID tag for tracking inventory and a separate radio frequency circuit to enable in-store electronic article surveillance to catch shoplifters.

The inventory-tracking software in the Evolve RFID chip set can be used to manage stock levels and monitor inventory at the case and individual-item levels.

The new technology is already alarming some consumer advocates, who fear that the system could permit the surreptitious tracking of customers who mistakenly carry away the RFID chips with their purchases.

However, Howard Stockdale, CIO at Beaver Street Fisheries Inc., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based seafood supplier, downplayed the risk to consumers.

Stockdale, whose company uses Gen2 RFID technology to track cases and pallets, contended that the new system would need GPS capabilities to track customers after they leave retail stores.

I appreciate the privacy concerns because I value them as well, but as it stands, this technology is purpose-built for supply chain tracking, not tracking people or their habits, Stockdale said.



Katherine Albrecht, an author and consumer privacy rights advocate, said in a statement that labels with RFID chips for both antitheft and tracking capabilities are very dangerous for consumers.



Dual-use tracking devices will quietly be embedded in a persons belongings, where [vendors] will be able to silently and secretly transmit information about you to marketers, criminals and Big Brother, Albrecht said.

David Hogan, CIO of the National Retail Federation, a Washington-based retail industry association, said consumers concerned about privacy should use only cash to purchase goods. I dont understand many of the concerns, he said, noting that tags cant be read from a far distance. The laws of physics wont allow that, Hogan added.

Checkpoint CEO George Off said that his company supports industry guidelines for RFID, which dictate that the consumer be made aware of the tags and be given choices on how theyre handled.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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