RFID in Libraries


EFF continues opposition to RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:11 am

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has updated its RFID information page providing links to recent developments in the library world and a report on the RFID panel at CLA.

Heads up to those of you in the vincinity of Berkeley, CA: The EFF is encouraging attendence at the Berkeley City Council meeting today and the Board of Library Trustees tomorrow so that community members may demand an investigation of a proposed restructuring plan and the budgetary implications of the RFID purchase. They provide a link to a flyer created by Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense.

BOLDs’ flyer is fairly extreme. In its unnuanced view of the implications of RFID it implies that RFID self-check machines will result in longer lines. It also ties the staff layoffs to the purchase of the technology – which has not been documented in any report I’ve seen. It’s entirely possible that the layoffs would have occured anyway given California’s current fiscal environment.
The language it uses (ex. “Director Griffen is sinking her talons into your civil liberties") is inflammatory. Jackie Griffen has a stellar reputation for upholding civil liberties in her work with the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the California Library Association.

I’m thinking some public education programs and discussion forums will be in Berkeley PL’s future.


TI multiprotocol readers

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:45 am

Yup. It’s a trend. Like Zebra, Texas Instruments has a multiprotocol reader. Yenra reports that the TI S4100 Multi-Function Reader (MFR) Module

accepts all ISO/IEC 14443 and ISO/IEC 15693 standards-compliant 13.56 MHz RFID transponders, while providing an easy migration path to support current tags not fully compliant to these standards.

Firmware can be adjusted down to the protocol level. In plain English, that means you can keep your hardware when the standards evolve. Cool.

So. We all know what’s possible. Librarians who want to protect their investment in RFID should be asking for scalability in their RFID architectures.

I recall some vendors on the CLA panel saying their companies were committed to upgradability.


ACLU on passports

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:21 am

I don’t often report on non-library related RFID happenings but this one struck a cord with me. The U.S. government is planning RFID & biometric passports and the ACLU is, naturally, protesting.

It makes me consider the oft cited example of people-tracking within Library RFID – that of the unsuspecting person carrying the Qur’an getting nabbed at the airport because the book’s RFID tag has been hotlisted. The notion of a library book as security risk pales in comparison with the RFID passport.

For the record, I am neither pro or con on RFID. I try to use this forum to look at the technology from all perspectives. My point with the ACLU link, is to provide a wider context. Those folks who protest RFID tags in libraries need to protest RFID tags everywhere (and I’m sure they do). Library tags are merely a drop in the privacy threat bucket.


Track consumer awareness of RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:51 pm

BIGresearch and Artafact LLC have a syndicated report which looks at consumer awareness of RFID. They did an initial survey of 8000 people in 09/2004 and will be doing another report in 12/2004. According to them, most people still haven’t even heard of RFID. The press release says that most RFID aware adults get their information from the Internet and nearly two-thirds of them are concerned about the potential for privacy abuse and no source was recognized by them as a resource for good information. Government sources are not deemed trustworthy.

The RFID industry is keeping track of attitudes regarding privacy. What isn’t clear is whether or not they view privacy issues as a technological or communication issue. I predict that spin will come before secure chips.


Mobile Phone App Goes Consumer

Filed under: — Laura @ 3:40 pm

Nokia has partnered with VeriSign to develop consumer applications for the RFID enabled cell phone. How long until a library RFID vendor makes this possible in our applications?

Consider the privacy implications when every cell phone is a RFID reader. Will your system be secure??


Multiprotocol reader

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:47 am

Zebra technologies has released two RFID printer/encoders which can handle multiple standards. Now, this is in the commercial RFID realm, thus focused on that class of standard. But its an indication of what can be done – and what we should demand – from the library RFID vendors. The Zebra encoders also come with a cost-free upgrade to support future standards as they emerge. Current and forward interoperability is a great concept.


RFID RFP online

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:39 am

The Kent District Public Library has posted their RFP for RFID (scroll down past the fold).

Speaking of the RFP process, there is a new tool in the works which may make this task a bit easier for libraries. openrfp.com has an automatic RFP generator which is free to libraries. From their mission statement:

We do this by developing and maintaining a database of functional descriptors for library operations and technical processing, linking them to vendor product capabilities using a structured vocabulary. Libraries can examine vendor software capabilities against their specific needs.

The say they’re vendor neutral. OpenRFP makes its profit by taking a percentage of any signed contract. They currently don’t have many vendors participating, however. It’s one to watch as it may prove useful once it reaches critical mass.


More articles & BISG/ALA best practices

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:05 am

CNET weighs in on library RFID. It’s mostly the same old, same old. Of note: they mention the BISG and ALA RFID best practices, saying they have been released. I hadn’t yet seen this anywhere, although I did mention it in my 7/2/2004 post with a promise to scan and post my print copy. I didn’t do it. I’m horrible. A thousand lashes with a wet noodle for me.

I did a bit of poking around on the BISG site and found a ccompleted draft had been posted. On August 18. I wonder why ALA hasn’t made any big noises about it. It may have been announced on their Intellectual Freedom email list, but I’m not a subscriber (soon to be rectified, you can be assured dear reader). It hasn’t been mentioned on the Office of Intellectual Freedom’s RFID page nor has it garnered a link on the ALA RFID Fact Sheet. Perhaps we’ll hear something when the guidelines are ratified.

The other noteworthy part of the CNET article is the goals attributed to Vinod Chachra of VTLS

The real shakeup could come many years from now, when RFID completely transforms the way libraries operate, if you buy into Chachra’s grand plan. He envisions a day when libraries completely do away with the time-tested Dewey Decimal classification system, opting instead for a sort of organized chaos governed by the vigilant and unblinking eye of RFID.

Never going to happen. Somebody please explain the priciples of serendipity and collocation to this man!

RFID Survey

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:26 am

The Packaging Program and Robert E. Kennedy Library at Cal Poly State
University, San Luis Obispo, California, cooperatively developed an
online survey designed to collect information with regards to the
implementation of RFID systems in libraries. This survey is aimed to
draw information with regards to the performance of such systems
already in place and expectations from those being planned. For the
success of this survey, we would like to get as many libraries to
respond as possible. The survey is located at
http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB223U6TM8Z7D . You are
qualified to partake in this survey if you have been or are involved
with any aspect of the RFID based technology at your library.

Please follow the above link and take the survey. A copy of the survey

results will be sent to all participating libraries, RFID listserv, and

LITA-L listserv. For any questions, comments or concerns relating to
this survey or topic, please contact Dr. Jay Singh, Assistant
Professor, at jasingh@calpoly.edu.



FTC responds to Nelson

Filed under: — Laura @ 7:33 am

RFID journal reports that the Federal Trade Commission responded to queries by Democratic Senator Bill Nelson (Fla.). Their jurisdiction is limited to unfair or deceptive commercial practices – in other words, they will intervene if a company abuses personal information gathered from RFID. Nelson had asked what steps the FTC is taking to regulate RFID and Deborah Majoras, FTC chair, pointed to the last June’s workshop.

The commission will be releasing a report based on the workshop that will have some guidelines.


Standards & Security

Filed under: — Laura @ 7:53 am

Eweek has a great report about the RFID standardardization discussion at the EPCglobal show. EPCglobal, you will recall, is the outgrowth of MIT’s RFID lab. It develops standards. While the article isn’t directly about library RFID, it provides a who’s who of players in the emerging RFID security market. Now Verisign is getting in on the action. I get a sense that the security flaws within the wireless communication and on the chips may soon be addressed.

More telling is the industry’s desire to “overcome RFID resistance” by coming up with privacy standards. Funny how the motivation is to sell rather than to do the right thing. It matters not, however. As long as the privacy/security issues are settled, who cares what motivates? Though it does make me want to ensure third party scrutinization of whatever solutions emerge.


FCC Workshop on Oct. 7

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:31 am

The FCC is holding a workshop on RFID on October 7.

The workshop looks fairly pro-RFID development. They are examining “regulatory barriers.” Seems like Senator Nelson’s questions to the FCC regarding legislative juridiction may be moot if the FCC has no interest/intention to regulate.

Senator queries FTC and FCC on RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:26 am

I meant to post this in August when I first heard about it. RFID Journal scooped me in reporting that U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has gone to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with a list of questions about RFID. Somebody also informed me that he sent a similiar list of questions to the FCC, but I seem to have misplaced my notes on that.

Nelson wants to know what jurisdiction these two organizations have over regulating RFID and what they have done to stop abuses such as the Wal-Mart Gillette razor incident.

Beta Bluetooth Reader

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:11 am

PhysOrg.com reports that Cathexis Innovations Inc. has launched a beta version of a Bluetooth RFID reader dubbed IDBlue.

The pen-sized reader works with passive 13.56MHz tags.


Dutch book supplier goes all RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:12 am

From Dow Jones Newswire:

UPM and NBD Use RFID to Track Books
Finnish forestry company UPM-Kymmene Oyj announced Dutch book supplier NBD Biblion will apply radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to all new books. The use of RFID will allow the companies to automatically track books in libraries. Under the deal, UPM will provide 50% of the tags, with more than one million RFID tags delivered already. [thanks Beth @ privacyrights.org]

More information [thanks Lori]

This is definitely a trend to watch. Some North American book jobbers are also including RFID tags in books, although only by library request. Examples which come to mind are: Blackwells, Baker & Taylor.


RFID Intelligent Shelf

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:21 am

An interesting library RFID application is being discussed on RFID_LIB.

Nedap Library Solutions, a European firm, will soon be releasing an “intelligent RFID book shelf.”

I can see how in gathering in-house usage statistics would be more automated with reader-equipped shelves. No need to remind pages or student reshelvers to use the wand when making their rounds. And, it would be possible to tell if a book had simply been moved rather than taken off the shelf. This could make in-house usage stats more accurate. I wonder if the product will fly or if librarians will find inventory wands to be good enough for their needs.

Nedap is going to be attending the Frankfurt Book Fair – if anybody wants a demo.


Japanese library goes moblie

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:38 am

RFID in Japan writes that the patrons at the library at Roppoing Hills, Tokyo can use their cell phones to retrieve RFID tagged books.

It makes me think about Roy Tennent advocating that libraries start delivering content to handhelds. Based on my observation of undergraduates, I’d say he’s right, at least for academic libraries. Every kid coming through the door has a cell phone attached to his ear. I once even had one answer a call and walk away during a reference interview.

One of the biggest complaints at my library is that folks can’t locate materials on the shelf. What if their cell phone could provide them with a map, and when they get near the item their RFID enabled phone could indicate that they were within range?


Bibliotheca releases better CD/DVD tags

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:45 am

RFID Journal reports that Bibliotheca has released a CD/DVD booster tag which they claim increases reads on this type of media from 70% to 100%. The usual problem with CD/DVDs is one of simple physics. Due to the magnetic layer on the disc there is interference with the electromagnetic radio signal waves.

The booster is pricey. It’s $1.49 for the booster and .99 for the donut. At that rate, I’m not sure which library could actually afford it. The breakthrough would be a definite boon to public libraries, since they tend to have high media circulation. Interestingly enough, the library cited in the article is Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library on Long Island, in New York. This is the same library that Bibliotheca touted as achieving an 85% labor savings by implementing self-check.

There is no mention of how many simultaneous reads of CD/DVDs can be done successfully. There is also no mention of how well the booster actually works in practice. Based on my conversations with electrical engineers, it is nigh well impossible to break the laws of physics and increase the read ranges of the CD/DVD tags very much. Bibliotheca may have increased the read range a little bit, and they say that it doesn’t effect the running speed/playback of the discs, nor does it damage the equipment. I reserve judgment until some library puts the tags though heavy use.


Nokia releases cell phone RFID reader

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:06 pm

Remember that tidbit I wrote about Nokia developing a RFID-enabled mobile phone? The first product has been released. The Guardian reports that you can now use a cover for the Nokia 5140 phone which contains a tag reader.

The reader works on the 1356MHz frequency –hey! that’s the one used by library applications. A cell phone reader would be cheaper than ones currently offered by the library automation vendors. The code for the phone reader is written in Java so developers can create their own applications. I wonder how long it will take an enterprising vendor to create a library app? (or for unauthorized access by patrons weilding cell phone tag readers)

Microsoft joins RFID market

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:47 pm

In another example of the growing pervasiveness of RFID, Microsoft prepares to enter the RFID market.[Information Week]

Some enterprise applications are already being developed and a senior VP says that Windows may too become RFID-enabled. Most likely Windows-level RFID will take the a form resembling Bluetooth sending messages between computers and peripherals.

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