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Philips courts policy-makers’ RFID nod

Philips Semiconductors is putting its weight behind a lobbying effort aimed at convincing policy-makers to adopt RFID tag technology. The global consumer electronic giant is fully convinced that RFID will become the most prevalent “electronic-based intelligence” technology of the 21st century. RFID will link machines, goods and people, helping companies gauge consumer preferences.

Speaking at a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris recently, Indro Mukerjee, executive vice president for the automotive and identification business unit at Philips, cautioned that policy-makers shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the privacy controversy surrounding the technology. He assured delegates that RFID makers are not taking privacy issues lightly.

Philips will promote RFID in combination with other wireless technologies, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, for near-field communications (NFC), where RFID is expected to simplify complex interface tasks such as pairing Bluetooth camera phones and TVs. The combination of NFC and other wireless technologies will emerge in 2006 in the form of a module.

The system, which is being introduced by Philips, Sony, Nokia, Samsung and the credit card company Visa, exploits a new development in the retail industry supply chain called Radio Frequency ID which is replacing bar codes. RFID allows companies to place tiny computer chips in individual items so they can be tracked and also opens a host of new high tech applications such as packages that can tell your fridge when they are about to go off.

By putting a tiny reader for the RFID chips in a mobile phone that uses the NFC radio system, the phones can ‘see’ the RFID chips when they are placed close to them. By working with Visa, Philips and Sony, they have been able to also build the ‘chip and pin’ computer chips now issued as standard on credit cards so that the phone can buy any object it is placed against.

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