Washington Patent of the Month – March 2021

A reader is used to interrogate specific RFID tags, which are attached to the desired object. An interrogation occurs when the reader transmits a radio frequency (RF) wave. A tag that senses the RF wave responds with another RF wave.

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) systems use 3 key components – RFID readers, interrogators, and tags – to locate and identify desired objects. RFID is a common method of loss prevention in retail, with tags attached to products. After being sold, the tag is marked as “Okay” to leave the store and does not trigger an alarm. These systems can be difficult to implement as the database must be able to update rapidly to keep up. Some thieves have been known to use their own RFID readers to illegitimately modify the tags. Impinj, Inc. has improved on this system to enhance security and simplicity.

Impinj’s method implements an ownership code (OC) within the tag which is unique to the organization. Any item without this particular OC is automatically registered as foreign and will not impact the loss prevention system further. For instance, if you are shopping in a mall and bring bags from one store into another, the RFID tags in those bags will not impact the current store’s system. Once the product is sold, an exit code (EC) is written into the tag so the alarms will not be triggered. The EC can be generated using an algorithm to increase code complexity and prevent hacking. The combination of the OC and EC are used to reduce the use of foreign RFID readers as they will not be capable of writing the correct codes into the tags. This system modification helps to reduce theft of product by making it more difficult to duplicate.

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