When students at Slippery Rock University are asked to show their IDs at local bars and school sporting events this fall, they won't have to fumble for their wallets. They can simply scan their cell phones in front of an RFID reader.
Last month, the Pennsylvania school began mailing students an RFID chip along with their new campus ID cards. The school hopes that students will attach the RFID chips to their cell phones, making their phones their de facto student ID cards. Slippery Rock President Robert Smith says a focus group of 50 students helped to develop the new program.
"This generation is cashless," says Smith, noting that a survey of the 50 students in the focus group turned up only two who had cash in their pockets. And although 25 percent weren't carrying their traditional student IDs, all of them had their cell phones.
Students will now be able to use their RFID-enabled cell phones to buy goods at stores both on and off campus. There will be 120 spots on campus where the RFID cards/cell phones will be accepted, including the café, the student book store, vending machines, and campus photocopiers and printers.
"What we are trying to do is prepare students for the next generation of this kind of technology," says Smith. "Eventually we'll see cell phones that have this technology anyway, and we know from our research that a student who loses a plastic ID card may not know about it for a day or two. A student who misplaces a cell phone knows in 15 minutes.We're trying to put their ID where they keep the rest of their life."
It's a very different story across the country in California. There, lawmakers are pushing legislation that would place severe limitations on the use of RFID technology, possibly for years to come. Nine months after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have seriously restricted the use of RFID throughout the state, the California State Senate voted 31-6 this spring to impose a ban on drivers licenses containing RFID transmitters. State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced the measure to prevent the Department of Motor Vehicles from using the technology to track motorists, arguing that it would expose their personal information to the risk of identity theft.
Several other RFID-related bills are also pending in the California legislature. One seeks to limit the use of RFID in access cards at universities. Another seeks to prohibit forced implanting of RFID chips into humans. All together, four different bills involving RFID technology went through committee in the California state assembly last month. The fate of the proposals is expected to be known by the end of this month.
In its largest commercial contract win ever, Reva Systems will supply German retailer Metro Group with its Tag Acquisition Processors when the retailer rolls out RFID at close to 200 locations in Germany. Metro, which expects to complete the project by the end of September, will deploy RFID at 10 distribution centers and approximately 180 retail locations. The project is believed to be the largest RFID deployment to date in Europe. Metro will also use Infinity 510 RFID readers from Torontobased Sirit in the rollout.
Reva began working with Metro last fall, when it became involved in developing standards in a research project at one of the retailer's DCs. The testing continued this spring, when Metro's extensive RFID lab conducted further tests on Reva's Tag Acquisition Processor and its RFID network infrastructure-based platform. Metro stores will use the technology to make their distribution and receiving processes more efficient.
"They felt confident about proceeding to this production rollout, and all of the preparation work is done, and the systems and pOréals and readers are being installed, plugged in, and brought online with their overall production system," says Ashley Stephenson, chairman and cofounder of Reva. "They are already receiving data from goods shipped with RFID from their suppliers to their DCs and into the stores."