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RFID: The Next Internet? 121

An anonymous reader writes "RFID Journal has an artricle about how an open source foundation is creating a new Internet based on RFID tags. 'The founders [RadioActive Foundation] liken the EPCglobal Network as a whole to the Internet, with RFID tags acting as URLs, and the tags' associated data being the Web site for that tag . The software the foundation develops, Michael Mealling adds, will act similarly to an Internet search engine. With Discovery Service software, for example, companies will be able to search for an RFID tag without requiring connected links between each point of the tag's travels.' Pretty neat concept, probably decades away."
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RFID: The Next Internet?

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  • Another CueCat? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:28AM (#12735147)
    Hasn't this sort of thing been tried before and failed miserably?
    • I've still got my CueCat sitting in a box in my basement.

      I hope "The Next Internet" created by RFID works out better than "The Next Internet" created by CueCat. They'll never beat the one created by Al Gore...
      • Hack the 'cat, man.. The company itself it pretty much down the dumper and odds are that they won't last much longer.

        Make yourself a nice barcode reader out of it, or something else that is actually useful.
    • Re:Another CueCat? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ah, the poor CueCats... I worked at RadioShack when they were just coming out. We had dozens of people come in daily and ask for them, but we went through them so fast that we never had any to give out. Then, about two months later, just as the demand died down, we got several hundred of them in. They sat in the stock room for a year before I had to lug the ten or so boxes out to the trash compactor.
    • Re:Another CueCat? (Score:5, Informative)

      by scoove ( 71173 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @10:59AM (#12736193)
      Hasn't this sort of thing been tried before and failed miserably?

      Yes, but according to CueCat's official website [digitalconvergence.com], we should hang on to our devices:

      If you have a Cue Cat, save it. The patents and technology created by DigitalConvergence will again be available for business and consumer use.

      As I'm certain they're not talking about the evil open source drivers that came along and ruined their attempts to spy on all those scans. Perhaps it has something to do with these Digital Convergence patents lying out there in wait:
      • US 6,836.799 [uspto.gov]: Method and apparatus for tracking user profile and habits on a global network
      • US 6,643,692 [uspto.gov]: Method for controlling a computer using an embedded unique code in the content of video tape media

      Don't forget...

      The dream was to connect items in the physical world to the Internet, automatically.
      In January that dream hit a bump in the road and the servers were taken offline.
      They will scan again...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:29AM (#12735160)
    they want their CueCat back.
  • You won't even know you're using it!
  • OH NOES!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Xaroth ( 67516 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:30AM (#12735170) Homepage
    Now they'll be able to track where our INTERNETS are! From now on, I'm wrapping my internets in tinfoil.

    Anyone got millions of miles of tinfoil I could borrow? Getting the first one wrapped is going to take a while.
    • RFID is not the next Internet. The Internet was something that businesses didn't appreciate that turned into a massive platform that allowed leaps and bounds in technology development and service delivery. The Internet did not grow explosively because of marketing. The Internet grew explosively because it created a new (useful) ecosystem that had never existed before.

      RFID is the next XML. XML is a technology (do I ever hate that word) with limited but useful business applicability. It is format for bu
  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:31AM (#12735186)
    This would be an excellent development for people like FedEx, UPS, big wharehouse companies, etc. The only thing I see is that it is a two edged sword. First, it wouldn't be totally necessary in companies, as you could just have a database app. for this. Secondly, would you want your competitor to have your RFID database of products? I wouldn't think so.
    • by llefler ( 184847 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @10:15AM (#12735663)
      In warehousing it's useful for keeping track of inventory movement. Databases are only as good as the people that use them, and people occasionally make mistakes. So while your database might tell you that you have 10,000 of product X, someone might have accidently overshipped, so you really only have 9,975. With RFID you can do a quick cycle count. Another problem in warehouses is when an employee records that s/he put the product in bin A, but actually put it in bin D. When you can have thousands of rack locations it can be next to impossible to find mistakes like that without doing a physical inventory. A time consuming process. From my experience in retail many, many years ago, I can see some benefit for finding 'lost' product there too. Retail stores have gremlins that move product randomly around the store. Because that Black & Decker cordless drill is supposed to be in lingerie.

      I doubt that very many product handling facilities care about tracking product once it leaves their domain. So you really have to wonder who interest it is to keep RFID active once it leaves a retailer.
      • Wal-Mart has already incorporated this in small numbers and has plans to go global with rfid in the next year I believe, so this isn't just theoretical its happening already.
      • You can care where products you've already shipped are for a number of reasons. Here are two:
        (1) Proof of delivery: in the same way that RFID makes 'cycle count' so much easier, it makes proof of delivery a snap. Instead of arguing over whether 38 or 40 boxes arrived, you know which boxes arrived.
        (2) Reverse logistics. If you need to recall something, or if you want to validate that a return is on its way, you can tell where it is in the downstream supply chain, and validate that it's coming back.
        • (1) Proof of delivery

          How will it make proof of delivery a snap? Are you going to have the customer scan the boxes? They won't scan the 'missing' boxes. Is there going to be some magical, all seeing RFID network? UPS and Yellow Freight aren't going to keep track of your RFIDs. Their data networks are built to handle their own tracking/PRO numbers. They could care less about yours. Here is how you will determine whether your customer got the complete shipment:

          UPS: track 40 tracking numbers and check delive
      • Because that Black & Decker cordless drill is supposed to be in lingerie.

        Kinky.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is great news! I am looking forward to the day where every device has its own wireless web services stack. For example,
      lamp->turn_on()
      lamp->turn_off()
      No need to press user-unfriendly switches and buttons anymore!
  • ... who thought of this? [cuecat.com]
    • Well, Digital:::::::Convergence did say they'd be back. I can just see the headlines now:

      "With our patented new CueTick(TM) Technology, you too can surf the internet with your dirty laundry!"
  • Yes, but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by should_be_linear ( 779431 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:33AM (#12735201)
    will it finally solve missing socks phenomenon?
    • What missing socks problem? If I wear a pair of blue and black socks, I know that there is an identical pair in my wardrobe...
    • No, socks will still be lost in the vortex that exists between space, time and your clothes drier. This is out of reach of normal radio signals, but I think SETI is establishing a program to search for extratestrial cotton fabrics.
    • Whenever one of my sock is missing after the laundry, the first place I look is in my pockets and stuck to the inside of trouser legs and shirt sleeves. My evil washing machine keeps trying to hide them, but it has only so many places to do it.
  • Woo! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:35AM (#12735218) Homepage
    So I will be able to google for my keys? I always seem to misplace them...
  • At Last (Score:3, Funny)

    by CleverNickedName ( 644160 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:36AM (#12735228) Journal
    You mean we'll be able to slashdot an actual RFID tag?

    Cool.
    • Re:At Last (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I read that under the US Army's Total Information Awareness program, every airplane, tank, bomb, missile would have it's own IP address (although it is going to be an encrypted network).

  • RadioActive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:37AM (#12735238)
    Good name, 'cause from what I'm getting, it sounds like something that I don't want to touch with a ten foot pole.

    Could someone explain exactly what they mean by, "[C]ompanies will be able to search for an RFID tag without requiring connected links between each point of the tag's travels." That sounds ludicrously ominous to me. Are we talking about tracking items with RFID tags, and are talking about being able to track them once they've left the store?
    • Re:RadioActive (Score:5, Informative)

      by Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:54AM (#12735402) Journal
      Are we talking about tracking items with RFID tags, and are talking about being able to track them once they've left the store?

      Unless you have a scanner in your home and connect it to their network, I don't see why it would.

      Basically, this is a new level of inventory and shipment tracking. The company is overhyping it with their analogy to the internet, and it seems to be impressing people in the opposite direction from the intended.

      • Are we talking about tracking items with RFID tags, and are talking about being able to track them once they've left the store?

        Unless you have a scanner in your home and connect it to their network, I don't see why it would.

        The year is 2015. Every citizen carries a Personal Identification Document with an RFID embedded. Every streetcorner in every city has an RFID reader. So does every airport and every highway.

        Big Brother can find out where Citizen X is/was by searching the Citizen Locator datab

        • The year is 2015. Every citizen carries a Personal Identification Document with an RFID embedded. Every streetcorner in every city has an RFID reader. So does every airport and every highway. Big Brother can find out where Citizen X is/was by searching the Citizen Locator database.

          You won't even have to have an ID card. The government can track you by the RFID tags in your clothing, put there by retailers. Plus, by detecting which tags are near your tags they know who you hang around with and where. Th
    • Are we talking about tracking items with RFID tags, and are talking about being able to track them once they've left the store?

      You can detect the tag anywhere, providing you have a reader. What I would need to know if you were looking to discover what you had bought from a store would be the link with its EPC code and from their the info on the product.
    • Re:RadioActive (Score:3, Informative)

      by krbvroc1 ( 725200 )
      I found their pdf white paper http://www.epcglobalinc.org/news/EPCglobal_Networ k _Overview_10072004.pdf/ [epcglobalinc.org]

      From what I read we are talking about tracking them during the supply chain. However it appears to me that is the design goal. There doesn't seem to be a problem with putting a 'reader device' elseware. And with the technology based on Internet standards, as long as there is a CAT5 jack nearby you could store the info.

      Here are some excerpts from the security section of the white paper:

      " When EPC tags

    • Right now data in the supply chain is sent along the same route as the product itself in a daisy chain fashion. If any link in that chain fails or just isn't capable of handling what's going on then you have no visibility beyond that point (a chain is only as a strong as its weakest link). A Discovery Service allows you to find those other places where data about that RFID tag is found by hoping 'over' the bad links in the chain.
  • by J Barnes ( 838165 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:37AM (#12735240) Homepage
    Seems to me that the the two most obvious uses for this would be for blind people and for in-store product information.

    If your vision-impared, it would be an amazing thing to carry around a talking box that can read signs and maps to you.

    For product "tool tips", you could walk around your local best buy with a small device that could scan CD's and DVD's and hot-link to IMDB reviews or short trailors and song samples.

  • security concerns (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smashin234 ( 555465 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:39AM (#12735264) Journal
    "companies will be able to search for an RFID tag without requiring connected links between each point of the tag's travels. "

    How do you make sure you connect to the RIGHT RFID tag? Just because a tag has a certain ID does not make it the right one. They need to really address this right now imo.
    • The point here isn't about the RFID tag itself, its about the identity of the particular product in question. The system is still intended to work with bar codes since you're never really going to get rid of those either. Yes, security is an issue for RFID but that's an orthogonal issue to being able to associate data with the Electronic Product Code (EPC) in a distributed and secure way. Whether or not that EPC came from an RFID tag or some other source is hidden in the lower layers of the network.
  • New internet??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Palidase ( 566673 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:40AM (#12735270)
    Will it be a new internet:

    rfid:127.0.0.1

    a new protocol:

    rfid://127.0.0.1

    or another flavor of what already exists?

    http://rfid.slashdot.org
  • The article contained no solid information!

    How would this work? Would workers travel from computer to computer with RFID tags full of data?

    I suggest someone give these people a bag of clues and a link to the documention on sending TCP/IP via carrier pigeons.

  • distributed communication an internet does not make distributed communication does not an internet make distributed communication not an internet does make an internet does not distributed communication make all work and no no play does jack a dull boy make sigh.
  • A New Internet? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scovetta ( 632629 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:42AM (#12735290) Homepage
    Don't they mean, A New Website on a private network, that uses Cuecat/AOL "keyword" links? Wouldn't they have been better off just making a nice web page and have the rfid code load up the revelant web data?

    This sounds like the work of.. Marketing!
    • That's actually almost exactly what we're doing. The code in the RFID tag is converted into a domain-name that points to a web server (or whatever service you want to publish) that contains the data or services you need to understand the tag.

      You'll have to forgive the reporters. They haven't read the technical specs on this stuff so the translations don't capture things like this.
  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @09:50AM (#12735362) Homepage Journal
    RFID can't "displace" or become "the next internet" anymore than barcodes can. RFID tags have no computation ability, no networking capabilities...

    RFID tags, at the lowest level emit a pre-programmed number when activated by RF energy (the resonate, if you will).

    There is a Dummies Guide on RFID - I expect it to be a big seller among the tin foil hat crowd ;^)
    • You're misunderstanding the purpose of the Internet. It was originally developed by DARPA as a way to track everything anyone does anywhere on the planet. Unfortunately, it turned out to be horribly inefficient for this purpose, and most people think it was actually designed to exchange information.

      Now they're going to replace it with RFID tags, and they'll be able to track you a lot better. Hope this helps.

      • Maybe I'm missing something here, but if I were Big Brother, I wouldn't be very happy with RFID as a means of tracking. As a personal user of RFID as a means of access to my work location, it's tracking ability seems limited. The range on the devices is pathetic (on the order of inches or centimeters, not feet or meters), so the number of readers required to effectively 'track' someone would be astounding, even for government.

        Now, if they could just create an RFID tag readable by satellite, that would be
        • "The range on the devices is pathetic (on the order of inches or centimeters, not feet or meters), so the number of readers required to effectively 'track' someone would be astounding, even for government.

          Think before you post.

          Then exactly how does the Express Pass on my car window manage to be interrogated by the toll booth scanner? I do not drive by the toll booth an inch away. Or how about those shoplifting scanners that detect tags on items leaving the store? Just because your particular security ca
          • Ok, you're talking about 2 very different things here. The Express Pass is a good point, but at least for now, the size of the readers (usually a good square foot or more) lets you at least know you're being probed by them. Have you ever tried those with 2 tags in close proximity? That creates some weird behaviour with a lot of systems.

            Shoplifiting scanners that detect tags leaving the store technically aren't RFID tags (thus of course, the reason they've been around so long). In this case, the signal
          • Think before you post - nice.

            The Express Pass monitors single tags through a controlled point... To monitor the movements of "everybody everywhere" (the seemingly obvious goal of "effectively 'track' someone") would require a simply staggering number of readers.

            Shoplifting scanners are the same, the monitor tags through a controlled area (the doorway)... And they don't *identify* "who" is going through the doorway, they let you know that at least one tag passing through the doorway is still active.

            RFID i
            • The Express Pass monitors single tags through a controlled point... To monitor the movements of "everybody everywhere" (the seemingly obvious goal of "effectively 'track' someone") would require a simply staggering number of readers.

              Not at all. Put scanners at airport checkins and you can't travel anywhere without the government knowing about it.

              Put one at a few major intersections, or on every bridge, and you can't drive without being tracked.

              Put one at the entrance (or carry one through) a politcal r
    • Not to replace or supplant the internet, but to be comparable in importance/impact/etc...

      as in "the cabbage patch doll will be the next hula hoop".
    • RFID tags, at the lowest level emit a pre-programmed number when activated by RF energy (the resonate, if you will).

      The most basic ones, yes. Other RFID tags have a bit more capability, including a small amount of read/write storage. Also often confused with RFID tags are contactless smart card chips which are tiny computers roughly as powerful as 1980 microcomputer.

      RFID can't "displace" or become "the next internet" anymore than barcodes can. RFID tags have no computation ability, no networking

  • I finally got all my bookmarks organized... Now I just have to find a big damn key-ring to put them on.
  • Yeah, it will be the next Internet - because there is nothing else on the Internet except for web content - and static web content, for that matter. Things like email, IMs, news, ftp, BitTorrent and so on don't exist, and dynamic websites don't exist, either.

    Since when does having addressable content mean something's gonna be the next Internet? It sounds more like a networked hash to me.
  • I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cluening ( 6626 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @10:05AM (#12735545) Homepage
    RFID is already on its way to becoming the next Internet - a name that is applied to anything technical that people don't understand. Just like web==internet in many people's minds, RFID is slowly becoming whatever people want it to be. For example, we have the "RFID-powered mouse" that appeared here a week or two ago, the "RFID is the Internet" story here, and the guy I overheard in downtown Chicago in March trying to impress his girlfriend saying "Yeah, I saw a thing on the Internet where people hooked the light switches in a building up to RFID tags and could turn the lights on and off, and were able to play Tetris on the side of the building."

    The world is becoming a scary place full of people who know just enough words to be dangerous.
    • I second your comment. I'm the only IT guy at my company. More and more people ask me questions which contain quasi-technical words they've learned. The words are usualy misused; exclusively because of a lack of understanding the technology.

      It seems to be a building problem in our modern society. People don't want to be 'left behind' technologically. So they use words (or worse phrases) when they don't know what they mean. Maybe this is a replacement for the Business Buzz Words of the 90s: See the Bullsh [dack.com]
  • by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @10:08AM (#12735570) Homepage
    liken the EPCglobal Network as a whole to the Internet, with RFID tags acting as URLs, and the tags' associated data being the Web site for that tag

    This sounds like a press release from the .com glory days . . . mindless banter that uses some fancy buzzwords (Internet, RFID, URLs, Website) in hopes that unsuspecting folks won't realize that this analogy is poor at best, blatantly wrong at worst.

    I could use the same analogy for my house. The house is the internet, each power outlet is a URL and each appliance's use of electrical current is the associated data for that website. Now with a bunch of multimeters, I have an "internet."

    Analogies in the hands on the misinformed are a very dangerous thing.

  • This actually will be an EXCELLENT development if it gains widespread usage, assuming it is distributed over the whole market. The reason being is that you could finally, and knowingly, know for sure that a product that you are about to buy over the internet is 100% for sure in stock. You could also know exactly where and when it was delivered to the wharehoue, and could know the exact time it left to be shipped. It would be like the Tracking number for many of the shipping companies out there, except it wo
    • This actually will be an EXCELLENT development if it gains widespread usage, assuming it is distributed over the whole market. The reason being is that you could finally, and knowingly, know for sure that a product that you are about to buy over the internet is 100% for sure in stock.

      ...and the government would know "100% for sure" where every citizen went, who they were with, what politcal rallies they attended, what organizations they belong to, and every associate of every person on every FBI, CIA, NSA

  • Internet != Web (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tei ( 520358 )
    You dont need to replace "the internet" to add a new use, all uses can share the network, like actually the web, the news, the spam-distribution-system and others share the internet resource.
  • RFID is PEOPLE!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Swedgin ( 888940 )
    After reading the not-so-very-detailed article (not surprising since it's little more than concept phase right now), they're only 'likening' this technology to the Internet.

    My interpretation has this being most useful on an INTRAnet where a company can call up an RFID that may have various category tags that would allow them to see that there are only 18 on the shelf, 42 on order, and 235 other products that meet the same criteria that are readily available.

    I know a guy who works in IBM's Global Services
  • What if folks that want to use RFID tags simply put the information on a publicly available web page (which would include the entire RFID response string in clear text), and wait for google to scan the pages. You could then simply submit a google search for the exact RFID response string, then parse the page to get the information you want...

    How is what this vendor is describing any different? RFID tags have identifiable sub-fields, but by definition each is unique (like MAC addresses)...
  • Hang on a second... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Monday June 06, 2005 @11:00AM (#12736199) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but there is no point in creating a 'New Internet' if it's just as easy to give each damn RFID tag an IP address. I shouldn't have to waste time translating between networks, if I ping an IP it should reply be it a server, an RFID tag, a mobile phone, a watch...

    Remember URLs? Ever heard of the concept of URIs? A 'name' could be given to a tag which resolves just like a domain name.

    Come on people, we don't need new networks. We need IPv6 on the one we've got, and hook more devices onto that.
    • IPv6, please. There's enough pressure on IPv4 right now.
    • We are using URIs. Please don't try and read a reporter written article as a technical specification. The form we're using is outlined here:
      http://www.ietf.org/internet-drafts/draft-mealling -epc-urn-00.txt [ietf.org] and looks something like this:

      urn:epc:id:sgtin:400700.3456.432123567

      And using IP addresses is a flagrant layer violation. The IETF is already struggling with how to deal with services as opposed to IP addresses as endpoints. The best method is to convert what's in the tag to a domain-name and then lo
      • You missed an important element of the original responders comment - he implied that you could just *ping* an RFID tag. RFID tags are not network elements, they are READ by network elements, and the assumption is that they read "at interesting points in time".

        To be able to see if an RFID tag was in range of a reader, or when it was last in range of a reader (thus "on the network" as the original responder mentioned), you'd have a network that resembles the cellular phone network where readers "register" th
        • RFID tags are just a way of carrying the identifier. The big difference for the supply chain is that RFID creates enough of a desire to upgrade that you can finally get two very important things the supply chain has needed for a long time: serialized identifiers (i.e. this particular case of coke as opposed to a case of coke) and Internet oriented, ad hoc networking in order to send the event data around. So its not that you want tag data, you want data about your product as its flows through the supply cha
  • by mhmealling ( 148796 ) on Monday June 06, 2005 @11:23AM (#12736403) Homepage
    For those trying to understand the EPCglobal Network from those media reports here's the easy primer:

    The EPCglobal Network is just a set of usage conventions for existing Internet standards and infrastructure for accessing data about the Electronic Product Code (EPC). RFID tags that adhere to the EPCglobal standards for tag encoding contain EPCs. The standard bar code that's been in use for decades is a degenerative case of an EPC.

    The usage conventions include a way of turning that EPC into a domain-name (in much the same way that the ENUM standard provides a way of turning a telephone number into a domain-name). From that point on its really just TCP/IP, HTTP, XML, Web Services, and standard security mechanisms we all know and work with every day.

    Yes, there is a large amount of incorrect terminology in that article. Anyone that has talked to a reporter about technical stuff knows that there's no telling what you're going to get on the other end. Suffice it to say, this isn't QueCat, it isn't a "new Internet", and it isn't about reading RFID tags from a distance. The stuff the Foundation is building is useful even if RFID tags were never deployed since it also works with bar codes.
  • Three hundred forty undecillion,
    two hundred eighty two decillion,
    three hundred sixty six nonillion,
    nine hundred twenty octillion,
    nine hundred thirty eight septillion,
    four hundred sixty three sextillion,
    four hundred sixty three quintillion,
    three hundred seventy four quadrillion,
    six hundred seven trillion,
    four hundred thirty one billion,
    seven hundred sixty eight million,
    two hundred eleven thousand,
    four hundred
    and fifty six

    ought to be enough for anybody?

    <shakes head>

    That'

  • We all know this is the decisive factor. Ask the makers of WWW and VHS.
  • The privacy ramifications of this are frightening. RFID is already widely used in product storeage, it makes warehousing far easier and more streamlined. The problem is that the tags arent always deactivated once the product has been purchased. If this turns into a gigantic linked network, consider the possibilities. Any hacker worth his salt could dial in and figure out what you purchased, where its being kept... any number of things. It would make tracking your spending habits simplistic. more on RFI
  • Now how am I supposed to microwave the entire Internet?
  • Until they have porn, it's not an internet.

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