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  1. 1. Computer Engineering Department CMPE 297 Research Paper “Radio Frequency Identification” By RESCUE TEAM Ashwin Venkatesh Gautham Mudra Srikanth Narayan Tsegu Yonas
  2. 2. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper Introduction In this research paper, we will discuss the technology of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in detail. The research paper discusses topics such as the history of RFID, the different components involved in RFID, the physics involved in RFID, the applications of RFID, security levels in RFID, and how RFID fits into the next generation. The final section describes the concluding remarks from the RESCUE team, about RFID. History RFID dates back to 1940 where it was used in World War II to detect enemy flights in the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system. In the year 1970, people started using RFID for tagging equipment and personnel. The use was mainly in electronic systems that involved electro-magnetism and induction coupling for high security applications to prevent the theft of expensive items. RFID did not find adequate application in the retail sector, because the cost of the RFID tags and other components in the RFID system were very expensive. In recent years, the cost of RFID has been dropping drastically. Consequently, retail industries are beginning to re-evaluate the applications of RFID. Usage of RFID technology in the retail industry seems to be growing rapidly. RFID Components  Tag (or RFID Transponder) This component contains the unique means of identification, and is read by the transceiver. This component is affixed to the items that are being tracked or identified by the RFID system. Tags can be classified as passive (read-only) and active (read and write) devices. In the case of passive tags, the devices are powered from the electromagnetic field generated by the reader part of the RFID system. In the case of active tags, the devices have their 2
  3. 3. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper own power source, and cost more with more flexibility. The power requirements in both cases are very low (in the micro-watt to milli-watt range of up to 20mW). Passive tags have the advantage of being less expensive, and have virtually unlimited operational lifetime, whereas active tags have a limited lifetime operation, due to their batteries. Even though active tags are more expense and have limited lifetime than passive tags, they are preferred options for higher data transmission rates and greater distances between tag and reader. Active tags also offer better performance in electromagnetically noisy environments. Other differences in the operation of RFID systems are related to various transmission frequencies and data storage requirements. Several frequency bands are used throughout the world, varying from 125 kHz to 6 GHz. The preferred frequencies for smart cards are in the low regions under 135 kHz or at 13.56 MHz. Higher frequencies generally allow higher data throughput rates, faster reading speed, and more reading range. But again, the costs rise with the more efficient frequencies and the highest frequencies may require a direct line of sight, therefore losing one of the advantages RFID usually provides.  Reader (or RFID Transceiver) This component is used to handle radio communication through the antennas, and pass the tags information to the outside world. ‘Reader’ has a number of responsibilities including powering the transponder, identifying the transponder, reading data from the transponder, and writing to the computer system. The reader includes a decoder to interpret the data that is read. The scanning antenna is attached to the reader, and considered a part of it.  Middleware (Interface layer) This component acts as a conduit between the RFID hardware elements and the client’s application software systems (such as inventory, accounts receivable, shipping, etc). In general, the middleware is used to receive data from the reader, enter the data into a database and provides access to the data in a number of forms that are useful to the users of the RFID system. 3
  4. 4. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper How does RFID work ? 1- The Reader antenn sends an interrogation command, Interface to host 2- The tag responds computer (RS485, RFID to the reader’s reader command by sending its tag t ID:01.43200B9.23AE1F.345C4D012 3- The reader communicates antenna the ID read to the host computer. 01.43200B9.23AE1F.345C4D012 (*) The reader-to-tag communication protocol includes multiple commands, such as Scroll, Ping, Quiet, Talk, Kill. The working of RFID is accomplished by the integrated functionality of all the components described in the previous section. The scanning antenna emits radio frequency signals that are limited to a short range. These signals provide a means of communicating with the transponder tag, that could either be an RFID chip, or an RFID device (the energy of the device gets amplified by the signals, for communication). Scanning antennas are available in the form of handheld antennas that can be attached to a surface, and can be transformed into any shape. When an RFID tag passes through the space of the scanning antenna, it detects an activation signal from the antenna. This signal activates the RFID chip, and the chip transmits information that gets picked up by the scanning antenna. The transceiver interprets the data, and transfers this data to a computer system. As discussed in the previous section, the lifespan of the RFID tag depends on whether the tag is active or passive. Active RFID tags (E.g. RFID chips) are embedded with batteries and are characterized by a limited life span. Passive RFID tags (E.g. RFID devices) are not embedded with any batteries and are characterized by a life span that could extend to decades. Active RFID tags can be detected from a relatively farther distance to the scanning antenna. However, Passive RFID tags are much smaller, and the "read" operations are much faster. 4
  5. 5. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper RFID devices can also function when implanted into living beings using a hyperdermic-type needle, in such a way that the surrounding tissues bind to the RFID device, and prevent movement of the device within the skin. The device needs to be implanted very close to the surface of the skin because the radio-frequency signals that activate the microchip containing the identification number are only effective within a few feet (or less). RFID Applications RFID finds application in several areas. Some areas include:  Access control Access control device cards can have an RFID transponder laminated inside the card. The RFID transponder inside the card is more secure and can’t be modified easily unlike cards with magnetic strips that can be erased and rewritten. Additionally, the security, the RFID card requires minimal user maintenance and intervention.  Transport ticketing RFID technology is used in public transportation for high-volume commuters to avoid long waiting, and provides a simple way to access to public means of commute such as trains, subways, and buses. Similarly, other similar applications ideal for RFID tags may include concerts, amusement parks, fitness facilities, etc.  Personal Identification RFID is used by military to identify each military candidate such as blood type, drug allergies, unit details, specific skills, etc. 5
  6. 6. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper  Passport Security EU countries have outlined plans to embed RFID into their passports, to comply with the US mandate that visitors’ passports be RFID-equipped. The RFID tags can carry digital photos, fingerprints, visa-entry information, and other identifying data that is critical for immigration officials. Other areas where RFID is emerging include Supply Chain Management, Mail and Shipping, closing tags, Libraries and Rental Companies, etc. In summary, RFID is used for many security purposes ranging from tracking pets to equipment. The use of RFID is limited only by the inadequate knowledge of using RFID. RFID in the Next Generation RFID has been an active technology for many years, but is gaining popularity in comparison to barcodes and magnetic strips, as the RFID chips or devices can be used over a much wider range. In the years to come, RFID is predicted to emerge as the defacto standard for self- scanning ability of purchased items at an increased number of stores. This will result in an increased use of "scan-it-yourself" aisles compared to checkout counters, in retail stores. New RFID tags are also being shipped by various companies (E.g. Unilever, UPS, Qualcomm, Impinj Inc., etc) with improvements to previous generation standards, and with faster read rates (of up to 1500 tags per second). The tags are characterized by a reduced level of interference even with a situation of multiple readers. The tags can also be re-written multiple times. The tags work based on the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and Gen 2 standards. With improvements to RFID standards and emerging chips, RFID compliant systems will support increased levels of security such as password protection, 6
  7. 7. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper authentication, and encryption to protect the data that is stored on the RFID tags and their databases. RFID Security RFID technology can pose security concerns in systems to which consumers are exposed. A scanner that is close to the RFID device can activate it, and read its contents. A sniffer can also be used to activate the RFID device embedded within purchased items at a store, and read information about all the purchases. These possibilities pose an important security threat. Companies are concerned about increasing use of RFID devices in company badges. An appropriate Radio Frequency magnetic field will cause the RFID chip in the badge to reveal information to the person who activates it. This information can then be stored and replayed to company scanners, allowing illegal access. Consequently, the badge gets credited for the access. The tags for consumer items do not have enough computing power to perform data encryption to protect the privacy. As explained in the previous section, the next generation RFID tags are aimed at overcoming this constraint, and thus improving the security level of RFID technology. RFID can also pose conflicts at the reader or tag level, when there are too many readers or tags in a given activation area. This level of interference can be considered a security issue. In addition to all these factors, some “fundamental” security concerns are listed in the below paragraphs. The radio communications between RFID transponders and readers raises a number of security issues. The information security objectives, such as confidentiality, integrity, availability, authentication, authorization, non-repudiation and anonymity are often not achieved unless special security mechanisms are integrated into the system. 7
  8. 8. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper The confidentiality constraint arises because the communication between reader and tag is unprotected. Eavesdropping may thus listen in if they are in immediate vicinity. The forward channel from the reader to the tag has a longer range and is more at risk than the backward channel. The memory of a tag can be read if access control is not implemented. The integrity constraint arises because the integrity of transmitted information cannot be assured. The writable tag memory can be manipulated if access control is not implemented. The availability constraint arises because denial-of-service attacks are possible, and any RFID system can easily be disturbed by frequency jamming. The “RFID Blocker” exploits tag anti-collision mechanisms to interrupt the communication of a reader with all or with specific tags. The authenticity constraint arises because the authenticity of a tag is at risk since the unique identifier of a tag can be spoofed or manipulated. The tags are in general not tamper resistant. The anonymity constraint arises because the unique identifier can be used to trace a person or object carrying a tag in time and space. This may not even be noticed by the traced person. The collected information can be merged and linked in order to generate a person’s profile. The automated reading of tags permits the counting of objects which may be undesired. The primary purpose of the RFID technology is the realization of cheap and automated identification. Thus, standard security mechanisms can hardily be implemented because of their relative complexity compared with the constrained tag computing resources. AES, SHA-1 and public-key protocols are too elaborate for low- cost tags. The effective security mechanisms in low-cost tags can provide protection against the security threats. 8
  9. 9. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper Conclusion The RESCUE team would like to conclude by saying that at present, RFID should be restricted to areas where the required security level need not be too high. After new standards with better security emerge in the industry, it will be much safer to use this technology. Although the RFID technology seems useful in minimizing wait times, there should be no compromise on the level of security that the RFID systems offer. The team also feels that the growth in RFID is justifiable in the forthcoming years. With security being the primary motivation again, there is huge scope for the production of sophisticated RFID tags. The RFID technology can be improved by contribution from multiple companies that are actively into this technology, and by the combined inputs from these companies after studying the needs of commercial and industrial users. RFID technology must encourage and support the increased use of “Zombie” tags, which are RFID tags that are de-activated when a person carrying an RFID tag leaves the activation area. E.g. While making a purchase at a cash register, the RFID scanner reads the item, the buyer pays for the item, and a special device sends a signal to the RFID tag to "die" when the buyer leaves the store. This signal would make the RFID tag further unreadable. Subsequently, the RFID tag can be re-activated only by an equivalent “activate” signal when the buyer re-enters the store. This will ensure that the RFID tag is readable only within the supply-chain area, reducing the risk of illegal data access. Finally, the team feels that RFID forms a vast field that leverages the fundamental concepts of physics. The technology forms an excellent platform for conducting research, and for building better systems in future that use Radio Frequency communication. 9
  10. 10. Radio Frequency Identification CMPE 297 Research Paper REFERENCES Steven Shepard, “RFID Radio Frequency Identification”, McCraw-Hill, New York, 2005 10