Among the runners-up for this year's Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation awards are the privacy-enhancing RFID clipped tags developed by IBM (NYSE: IBM) researchers Paul Moskowitz and Günter Karjoth. Clipped tags allow consumers to partially tear off the antenna, preventing long-range RFID readers from detecting and reading them, thereby putting consumer privacy back in the hands of the consumer.
Zurich, Switzerland, 13 September 2006Radio-frequency identification is a way for companies in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, retail and government industries to cut costs associated with their increasingly complicated supply chains. But as is the case with many emerging technologies, concerns over privacy have left some companies in a predicament about using the technology without infringing on consumer privacy.
IBM researchers Paul Moskowitz of the Watson Research Center and Günter Karjoth of the Zurich Lab have created a novel and stunningly simple new approach to addressing privacy concerns surrounding passive RFID tags attached to goods in the consumer supply chain. Their so-called clipped tag technology allows consumers to tear off the antenna of an RFID tag, thereby significantly reducing the tag's read range to just a few inches. This makes it extremely difficult to read tags within an individual's personal space without being noticeable.
IBM's clipped tag technology for RFID was hailed in the Wall Street Journal Innovation Awards as one of this year's most significant technology breakthroughs in IT security and privacy. The clipped tag gives consumers the ability to simply "opt out" and protect their privacy. The chip, however, retains fully functional otherwise. This enhances consumer privacy while maintaining the benefits of the technology, such as product authentication or recalls.
"By merely eliminating the tag's ability to communicate with other devices or systems without killing the entire chip, we can address both consumers' interest in protecting their privacy and retailers' interest in keeping the tag functional," states IBM researcher Karjoth.
The clipped tag technology is another example of IBM's commitment to the responsible adoption of advanced telematics technologies-sensors, actuators, RFID and other networked devices-that link organizations and people for economic growth, improved healthcare and education, as well as for enhanced security and safety. In July, IBM announced its intention to partner with label manufacturer Marnlen RFiD to produce the clipped tag commercially.
This innovative technology is an outgrowth of IBM's extensive software, services and research laboratory network, including the WebSphere RFID product family.
"IBM believes that innovation in RFID should move forward with a strong focus on privacy," explains Harriet Pearson, IBM's chief privacy officer. "Successful commerce depends on trust."
For more information about IBM's RFID solutions, go to www.ibm.com/solutions/rfid.
About Wall Street Journal Innovation Awards
The Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards, now in their sixth year, recognize novel technologies from around the world in several categories, including medicine and medical devices, wireless, security, consumer electronics, and semiconductors. For the 2006 awards, the Wall Street Journal initially screened more than 600 applications. The judges then narrowed it down to 121 entries, selecting 12 category winners and 37 runners-up, including some from Europe. The top three innovations among the category winners are recognized with the gold, silver, and bronze awards. In selecting winners, judges considered whether the technology truly represents a breakthrough from conventional methods, rather than just an incremental improvement.