Wednesday, April 16, 2008

RFID keeps tabs on Vegas bartenders -- and soon could track you too

RFID technology is rapidly becoming a ubiquitous monitoring tool - and will certainly be utilized in the day to day operations of businesses and government's throughout the world in the near future. This Computer World article - detailing various uses of RFID being contemplated in Las Vegas - serves as an excellent "prep course" in just some of the many ways this technology is being used now, and will be used in the future. As you will notice, the usual spectrum of those uses is covered, spanning from the privacy benign to the "dangerous infringement".

From a public policy perspective, our argument continues to be one of "the devil will be in the details". As in, the extent to which RFID technology poses a privacy threat to the public, directly depends on the protections and precautions we will institute as they are more widely and regularly utilized.

Computer World Reports:

Tucked away in the pouring spouts of the bottles behind bars at MGM Mirage resorts and casinos are RFID tags that measure the flow of liquor, producing data that links to point-of-sale systems. The chipping is part of the loss-control system at MGM Mirage (it has RFID in some casino chips as well), which has 55,000 employees and serves tens of thousands of guests daily. But it is a relatively minor example of how technology is being used, according to Tom Peck, MGM Mirage's senior vice president and CIO. The company has some big plans to deploy a range of technologies that will change how services are delivered.


Peck, who appeared at a Gartner Inc. ITexpo forum with Aldo Manzini, MGM Mirage's executive vice president and chief administrative officer, envisions a seamless network — from algorithms that can predict customer wants to systems that will respond to newly arrived hotel guests by automatically turning on lights, adjusting blinds and setting the television to the customer's preferred language. All of it will happen through fiber networks and ZigBee, a short-range wireless network technology in rooms.


Another new technology will be room keys that not only open doors, but also keep track of customer preferences and gaming play. But Peck says that this type of technology, which includes RFID and a computer chip, will also likely be "opt-in," since some customers may not want to be tracked.

The business goal, said Manzini, is to be able to use technology to create an experience as close to a personalized concierge service as possible for a very large number of customers, "and the only way we can accomplish that is through technology."

As I have mentioned many times here before, California is leading the way on this issue. A host of bills being proposed by Senator Joe Simitian (as well as Ellen Corbett and others) would go far in protecting privacy and strengthening consumer choice.

In particular, these bills would simply apply existing, widely-accepted State privacy principles and baseline privacy practices and standards to RFID. For more information on these bills, check out our Bill List, esp. SB 28, 29, 30, 31, and 388.

Click here to read the rest of the ComputerWorld article.

No comments: