RFID tech turned into spy chips for clandestine surveillance

Nox Defense creates chips (and even RFID Dust) for tracking property and people

An employee looking to steal confidential information from his employer sneaks into what should be a secure back room after hours. He pulls charts and files from a top-level financial meeting and slides them into his briefcase before heading back out.

What the insider doesn't know is that his shoes picked up hundreds of tiny RFID chips that had been scattered across the floor. As he passes by an RFID reader near the front door of his office building, security will be alerted that he had accessed a secure area. The evidence is all over the soles of his shoes.

Sound a little like a scene from a James Bond movie? It's not.

Nox Defense, an arm of SimplyRFID, has created what it's calling an invisible perimeter defense system designed to track things and people in real time - all without their knowledge. The system that is made up of several technological pieces -- RFID chips the size of grains of sand, and an RFID and video camera surveillance system.

"The key to an effective surveillance system is intelligence in the equipment itself," said Carl Brown, president of Nox Defense. "It does no good to install a thousand video cameras if a thousand people have to watch them all day? Everybody is doing surveillance nowadays everywhere. They just don't have a setup that tells them what is important video to look at. RFID technology will tell you when something was moved, where it was moved and then you can check the corresponding video."

Brown explained that the RFID chips, or spy chips, are perfect for what he calls clandestine surveillance. The RFID readers can be hidden in an office building or warehouse, and the RFID tags can be placed on company products or property -- and even on employee name tags or ID badges. Thieves, intruders and even personnel see nothing of the tracking system.

If an employee in the warehouse walks off with a plasma TV or loads seven instead of five computers into the delivery truck, it can be tracked with the RFID technology. And since the RFID chips will tell security what time the equipment was moved, the company can check the digital video archives for that time and that section of the warehouse.

The Nox RFID readers and the digital video cameras are all tied into software that tracks the data feeds and allows security to quickly call up, for instance, all the video shot that day of a particular employee or of the video taken of the area where certain products are stored, explained Brown. The software creates data files of the RFID and video data.

"RFID is perfect for that because it's very inexpensive," said Brown. "RFID tags right now are under 20 cents a tag for passive tags. The technology is cheap enough that you can tag lots and lots of items for a fairly low cost. If you tried to watch every person, you couldn't. But with RFID, you can keep an eye on every single item as it moves through the building -- where it went, when it went there and who was moving it. We've got the tag, we know where it is and there's the video of the person doing it."

The RFID Dust that Nox Defense also sells is actually made up of tiny RFID chips - each about the size of a grain of sand, according to Brown. They can be scattered on a floor, so when someone walks through a room, entryway or warehouse, the tags will stick to their shoes or pants cuffs. When they walk past an RFID reader, it will be able to tell where they've been.

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Sharon Gaudin

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