It was a jubilant moment when metro-bus project started its operation in Islamabad. Me like some of the very few others had the chance to take a ride on the newly inaugurated service on the first hand. Although it was not the first time that I boarded upon a bus, but it was euphoric as always I felt on the completion of such a project which would directly benefit the public.
But this time I was curious of knowing the tech, which goes into work behind such projects. Most of you may know that over the time I have developed keen interest into learning the technical aspects of such stuff, mostly for finding any other interesting feature & even implementation in another scenario with a broad scope.
People first buy a specialized token to board into the bus, and that token is a gadget. It uses RFID technology; you just need to touch that thing onto gateway to let it pass through it. Yes I know this entire thing sounds really creepy. But the thing is that token uses a very smart tech behind its transactions. It uses radio frequency to communicate to the well connected computerized system to let the passenger pass through the gate. But before I come to my point let’s have a look back at the history behind the development of RFID technology.
It’s generally said that the roots of radio frequency identification technology can be traced back to World War II. The Germans, Japanese, Americans and British were all using radar, which had been discovered in 1935 by Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, to warn of approaching planes while they were still miles away. The problem was that, there was no way to identify which planes belonged to the enemy and which were country’s own pilots returning from a mission.
The Germans discovered that if pilots rolled their planes as they returned to base, it would change the radio signal reflected back. This crude method alerted the radar crew on the ground that these were German planes and not spy aircraft; this is, essentially, the first passive RFID system.
The RFID tag has an embedded transmitter and receiver. The actual RFID component contained in a tag has two parts: an integrated circuit for storing and processing information, and an antenna to receive and transmit a signal. The RFID tag has non-volatile memory storage, and can include either fixed or programmable logic for processing transmission and sensor data.
In this process we use a RFID reader to get the data from the tag. The reader then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data. Information collected from the tags is then transferred through a communications interface to a host computer system, where the data can be processed instantly or stored in a database and analyzed at a later time.
Radio frequency identification is an enabling technology, which means it doesn’t provide much value on its own, but it enables companies to develop applications that create value. Long checkout lines at the grocery store are one of the biggest complaints about the shopping experience. Imagine going to the grocery store, filling up your cart and walking right out the door. No longer will you have to wait as someone rings up each item in your cart one at a time. And this could be achieved very smoothly using RFID. Actually Amazon GO in the US uses this in their stores.
Border security authorities, government departments and a number of stakeholders are working hard to prevent illegal and dangerous goods being smuggled into the country. But thousands of illegal goods, such as cigarettes, electronics, food, cell phones, computers auto-parts and even wood logs cross over the country’s borders every-day, to and from neighboring countries. Using RFID technology we can track the imports by forcing the legit businesses to only import or sale such products whose RFID tag is duly cleared by customs and other authorities. This also enables them to look for smuggled items as those illicit items were not passed through the system, so their data was not available in the import logs, which will enable authorities to take an action.
As these tags have a small microchip on board, that offers functionality which can be used for security purposes. This chip functionality makes it possible to verify the authenticity of a product and hence to detect and prevent counterfeiting. The tag is incorporated into the structure of the asset, so it is extremely difficult to remove, deface or counterfeit. It is virtually impossible to destroy the tag without destroying some element of the device. This makes Embedded RFID a solid anti-theft or asset recovery measure.
In industrial practice of the pharmaceutical manufacturing, especially in small and mid-sized companies, RFID is rarely implemented or not at all. This technology smartly enables the companies, retailers and authorities such as DRAP to track the product throughout its life-cycle. Batch traceability could reach almost acute levels through the use of this, plus it enables them to track inventory levels & FIFO methodology with precision. Businesses can shrink their on-the-shelf expired stock inventory with extreme accuracy.
The state bank of Pakistan can embed these tiny sized tags into bank notes which will reduce the menace of counterfeit currency. People, and the bank can verify the authenticity of banking instruments. This technology can also enable the SBP to block cash-couriers which are involved in money laundering. If government introduces a law which forces manufactures & importers to embed RFID instead of Barcodes into products, it could be used in effective collection of sales tax. FBR will then simply scan a product to track its history, and can effectively bring the non-filers into the tax-net, putting an end on UN-registered sales, knowing who is buying what and what for.
We just need the will of people involved in all of these activities, definitely in start it will cost, but it will bring value to the whole system, which will result in optimized delivery of products & services in more professional and legal way. On the one side we put our effort and resources and on other hand we get less of the burden of expired stock cost and accuracy in the books – both in stock count as well as taxation, bringing more transparency. This is how we can strangle the illicit trading, smuggling, money-laundering on the gallows, putting an end on such malpractices.