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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

RFID to blockout DVDs?

NXP Semiconductor and Kestrel Wireless have teamed up to add RFID tags to consumer equipment, including DVDs, to prevent theft, in a very interesting story.
The key is that the RFID chips activate the equipment at the point of sale, so stealing them is useless. And it fits nicely into the existing point of sale infrastructure - so far, so good. Now this I can understand for an MP3 player, falt screen TV, even a electronic toothbrush, but how on earth does an RFID tag disable or enable a DVD, which is passive?
It turns out there is another factor floating around here - an electro-optic film has to be added to the DVD, and this is activated by the RFID tag. Now, there are some distinct issues here, not least the power required to activate the film quickly and effectively, which is not possible through existing point of sale RFID terminals. An then there is the cost of adding the film to the DVD (both in itself and the manufacturing process) which will be non-trivial - this is not just a piece of plastic on top of the disk. And what about reliability - will the film slowly darken over time?
I suspect there's a long way to go on this!

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