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The Almighty Buck Technology

Tiny Transistors Could Be Used To Track Cash 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the transitional-form-of-currency dept.
disco_tracy writes "Banks have long considered placing silicon transistors on currency for security purposes, but the technology was too chunky and intensive for paper bills. Now, tiny low-power organic transistors developed by German scientists could make it possible to really follow the money."
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Tiny Transistors Could Be Used To Track Cash

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  • Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Friday February 25, 2011 @02:47PM (#35314998) Homepage Journal
    There goes one of the last mediums of semi-anonymous financial transactions.
    • Re:Damn (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday February 25, 2011 @02:51PM (#35315070) Homepage Journal

      "There goes one of the last mediums of semi-anonymous financial transactions."

      Back to the barter system anyone??

    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aztektum (170569) on Friday February 25, 2011 @02:54PM (#35315132)

      Toss your bills in the microwave.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by molo (94384)

        And then don't forget to launder them.

        -molo

        • by dargaud (518470)
          I always though that the dollar bill, as opposed to just any money in the world, was made on purpose easy to counterfeit so that it would be used as the de facto worldwide currency. I mean it's only 2 colors (green and black) and the security measures on it are ridiculous (some hair in the paper, are you serious?). The paper is too similar to basic paper for the average Joe to tell (it indeed dissolves if you forget it in your pants while using the washing mashine). If you take most other moneys, like the E
          • by Raenex (947668)

            I always though that the dollar bill, as opposed to just any money in the world, was made on purpose easy to counterfeit so that it would be used as the de facto worldwide currency.

            I doubt it. Massive counterfeiting can easily make your currency worthless. The US gained worldwide currency status not by being easy to counterfeit, but by having a huge economy and a relatively stable currency.

            Many of the security measures are just very old, and they've been conservative in introducing new ones.

          • US money certainly does not dissolve in the wash as I can personally attest to - I have mistakenly washed bills on several occasions before and the color fades a bit, but other than that there is no discernible degradation of the paper itself. The paper used in US currency has some linen fibers woven into it to make it strong. As a matter of fact, most counterfeiters will run their fake money through the wash a few times themselves to make it appear to have been in circulation for a while. Also, you shou
          • by rubycodez (864176)
            Your description of the anti-counterfeiting measures is over 2 decades old, current bills have much more publically known measures and a few lesser known ones. And bills survive washing just fine with only a slight fading and fraying of the linen fibers, still quite usable.
          • I always though that the dollar bill, as opposed to just any money in the world, was made on purpose easy to counterfeit so that it would be used as the de facto worldwide currency.

            Yeah, I'm sure the facts that the US economy is by far the largest economy of any single country in the world by a wide margin and the fact that most money is not printed plays no role at all in the dollar being the world's reserve currency. [/sarcasm] The US maintains about $800 billion in circulation at any given time. This amount while large is dwarfed by the amount of money in circulation that is not printed currency. The US GDP is somewhere around $14 Trillion by comparison.

            I mean it's only 2 colors (green and black) and the security measures on it are ridiculous (some hair in the paper, are you serious?).

            It's not two colors and h

      • Then they'll no longer be accepted as genuine.

        • A nice idea in theory, a horrible one in practice.

          So a bill with a faulty chip isn't legal tender anymore. Who's gonna notice? The mom'n'pop shop where you buy your ice cream with that fiver you just fried? Hardly. They won't even have the facilities to test every bill that they get. Worse, how about shops with a huge number of customers buying penny items (like newspaper stands)? You think they'll be even able to test the bills, even provided that they had the facilities? It's a time issue.

          What would happe

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        How about an industrial strength press?
        At worst, several tons of pressure might make vending machines a bit unhappy about accepting your dollars.

      • They'll probably change them to a polymer based note (like here in Australia and much of the rest of the world), so the microwave will destroy the note. I am sure there will be other ways though. High voltage spark from one of those firelighters perhaps?
    • by icebike (68054)

      O, I don't know. Seems like 12 seconds in the microwave, or under a steam iron, or maybe thru the delicate cycle in the washer would pretty much render these inoperable.

      • Only terrorists use inoperable cash!

      • by sjbe (173966)

        O, I don't know. Seems like 12 seconds in the microwave, or under a steam iron, or maybe thru the delicate cycle in the washer would pretty much render these inoperable.

        Terrific. And then when you try to pass these inoperable bills at Walmart they'll run them by a scanner to see if they are real and then refuse to accept them as valid currency. Congratulations! You just literally threw away perfectly good money in a fit of paranoia.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Terrific. And then when you try to pass these inoperable bills at Walmart they'll run them by a scanner to see if they are real and then refuse to accept them as valid currency. Congratulations! You just literally threw away perfectly good money in a fit of paranoia.

          Nope.

          Money is legal tender even if degraded.

          That Crinkled, defaced, partially torn dollar is still a dollar. If it was valid the day it was issued its valid until destroyed. Even partially burned bills are still valid if they have enough characteristics intact to prove that they were valid when issued.

          That their electronic device failed in service is not your fault, (even when it is your fault). There is no statute that enables them to track every bill, and declare your money invalid when that tracking d

    • by Kingrames (858416)
      Might not even work very well.

      I can see this technology doing one thing:
      People afraid rightfully so for their anonymity will spend more money on it. Only now, doing so will be one massive black hole of spending.
  • Where's George? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why not just use "Where's George" stamps?

    • I love that site; thing is, it's entirely voluntary and the input is unvalidated. (the webmaster is constantly trying to keep bad data out of the system)

      Using that site has made it clear that many "common people" don't pay much attention to the details of their physical monetary objects, partially evidenced by the low response rate

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday February 25, 2011 @02:49PM (#35315036) Journal
    So is your currency invalid if you microwave it?
  • What happens when I launder the bills in my pocket?

    • by blair1q (305137)

      They shred. Only now they do it in a futuramic way.

      • by tgeller (10260)
        American bills are made of a linen/cotton blend -- that's why they don't shred in the wash.
        • by blair1q (305137)

          They shred in the wash if they're in your pocket when your pants are washed. The linen fibers makes them a little more sturdy than other papers but they're not like handkercheifs.

  • The found conclusively that It almost always ends up at strip clubs.

    • That is a good reminder any cash you handle likely spent time stuffed in a diseased stripper's g-string. It also probably has mucous and blood from multiple noses when it was used to snort drugs.
      • I forget where I read this, so I lack the citation to back it up, but I recall reading a report finding that more than 90% of US currency in circulation has traces of cocaine. Either from direct contact or proximity to other cocaine tainted bills.
  • Wow, you mean up until this point it simply wasn't feasible to track cash? And now science has provided a way? Thanks, amoral German scientists! This is the best gift you've given the world since mustard gas!
  • No? Too simple? Or can OCR software simply not read the serial numbers printed on the notes?

    Ah wait. They want to be able to do it clandestinely... I see...

     

    • My thought exactly. Simple OCR and lookups can validate bills. If each bill gets scanned and location data, timecode, and (unique, already printed) S/N, you could know for certain if there was a duplicate somewhere. You could add other data, too. It's not like they don't already get individually counted when they're deposited at a bank.

  • Most of our coinage is already worth more than its denomination in raw materials.....so are we proposing to give (low denomination) paper money the same treatment? I can already see black market micro-transistor harvesting businesses. Either that, or hackers and DIYers are going to start modifying them to make the company whose job it is to track such money miserable. This could almost be fun! If it weren't so 1984-esque.... Oh wait, I forgot, we already have "Where's George?", the voluntary version of th
    • The web sight and voluntary tracking are no doubt a toy.

      However it is a thought provoking toy. I bet all bills get scanned at the bank every time they are deposited. Adding OCR for serial numbers has been computationally trivial for at least a decade, standard fonts and all. There is even a valid reason as many batches of counterfeit cash share serial numbers.

      Anybody want to bet the bill counting machines are network connected?

      Who works at a bank? Clandestine traffic analysis? If they are tracking th

  • Do you really think Congress would pass a law that would allow cash tracking?
    Think of the mayhem such a law would create with the current "system" of campaign financing and "political contributions."
    Get real. This will never happen.

    • I highly doubt political contributions and campaign financing are enacted via cash very often.
    • by Eudial (590661)

      Oh I don't know. Surely there's some way to spin cash-tracking as stopping pedophiles.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        Don't these guys need money to buy candy to lure the kids?

        It's quite obvious what we should do: ban candy!

    • by Raenex (947668)

      Do you really think Congress would pass a law that would allow cash tracking?
      Think of the mayhem such a law would create with the current "system" of campaign financing and "political contributions."
      Get real. This will never happen.

      They'll just exempt themselves from the law by finding a "legitimate" need for such an exception.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Do you really think Congress would pass a law that would allow cash tracking?

      Yes, in a heartbeat.

  • and put the chip in people's right hand or forehead...

    it might upset a few people though (mostly christians)
  • Didn't the Lone Gunmen demonstrate this in one episode?
    • More or less. They extracted the denomination strip from a bill and claimed that it was used for remote tracking purposes.

  • ...could make it possible to really follow the money

    Every day I find myself wanting a personal EMP generator more and more.
  • Somebody makes a modest advance in materials science, and it's hyped into an application. Again. The Discovery crowd is notorious for these.

    The usual subjects for this class of hype are batteries, displays, and memory devices.

  • Before such tainted cash even hits the streets, you will be able to buy a shielded billfold, or an inexpensive device that fries the tracking chip.

    That, or the smart ones among us will make a concerted effort to displace tainted cash with a new money system. Maybe something like the funny money some communities have started using for local businesses.

  • If you truly need to follow all significant money movements, simply stop printing paper money. Force everyone to use credit cards and checks. I mean really. We don't do that because it is an invasion of privacy. There is no need to come up with a NEW way to invade our privacy, we already have enough old ways.
  • the cheque is invented, so is the bill of exchange.

    the advantage of banknotes is their anonymity, the abstraction to the underlying transaction of real goods and services.

  • Don't all bills have a unique serial number? So they can already be tracked, just scan the number. What difference does it make if it is electronic or not? The only time it's going to be tracked is when it's scanned.
    • Don't all bills have a unique serial number?

      Yes but that is relatively easy to copy and relatively difficult to read. It does get read but few organizations have the equipment to do so with any amount of efficiency. Furthermore a serial number is useless without a database to compare it too. A chip could carry actual data beyond simply a serial number.

      So they can already be tracked, just scan the number.

      Possible in theory but not really in practice for private enterprise. OCR systems are still quite complicated and expensive. Plus having a chip in the currency allows you to do other things besides

  • ... the Where's George [wheresgeorge.com] folks out.

  • The technology is called OCR. You just optically read the serial number off the bill as it's processed. This is hardly a new thing.

    I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that this is already done when bills go back to reserve banks for the purpose of detecting counterfeiting.

    37 bills all with the same serial number would be a touch suspicious.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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