Everyone mentions “RFID” and “Wal-Mart” in the same breath. For the record, Target met with its suppliers to start the process on its first RFID pilots as well.

Requirements identified to date include applying RFID tags to cartons and pallets shipped to regional distribution centers and using 96-bit tags based on EPCglobal standards. An EPCglobal logo is required on cartons and pallets, all current markings and bar codes for pallets and cartons will continue to be applied, and EDI ship notice manifests will still be required.

Anders at RFID Buzz notes:

German security consultant Lukas Grunwald has released a tool he names RFDump, that can be used to read, and apparently in some contexts, change the contents of an RFID tag. Handy for discounting your purchases, you’d think, but as far as I can see, this would only apply to read/writable tags (and here possibly actually containing the price information), as opposed to read-only “serial number”-style tags.

Serial number / product code tags would generally be used by a business to identify the item; the price would then be looked up from a pricing database; changing this price would require more traditional hacking, unrelated to RFID. Furthermore, generally one would also assume full scale consumer implementations to have a certain level of encryption in place.

Still, his point is proven, and businesses implementing RFID in their supply chain should not ignore the abilities of black hat hackers.

See also Forbes.com, A Hacker’s Guide to RFID.

Matrics Agrees To Acquisiton By Symbol

Yep, another scurrilous bit of RFID news: Matrics gets bought for cash-on-the-barrelhead, $230M on a $38M investment.

The early success of Matrics in selling radio frequency identification (RFID) systems made the five-year-old company one of the Washington area’s more prominent local start-ups. The purchase will give Symbol, which sells bar-code scanning and retail tracking systems, access to an emerging technology that analysts say will become central to the next generation of supply chain management.

Matrics raised a total of $38 million in three rounds of funding from investors including Novak Biddle Venture Partners of Bethesda, the Carlyle Group of the District, and Polaris Venture Partners of Waltham, Mass. Two local investment organizations, WomenAngels.Net and the Dinner Club, also hold stakes in Matrics.

From the article RFID in Retail Stores: Suggestions for Eliminating Smart Shelves:

In retail stores and other environments, the inability to rapidly locate items is a common problem. Retailers may appear to be out of stock of a product, when in fact the product may be available in the back of the store or may have been placed on the wrong shelf. RFID (radiofrequency identification) technology has been proposed as a means to improve the ability to track inventory and to locate objects. In particular, the use of RFID-tagged objects coupled with smart shelves that include RFID readers has been proposed as a means of efficiently tracking the presence of products in a retail environment. However, the smart shelves that have been demonstrated in public trials have employed numerous expensive RFID readers adapted to read sections of a single shelf, and have required the use of expensive and bulky coaxial cable for each of the readers… In this paper, we propose several alternative systems that may be considered.

The alternatives include techniques for extending RFID signal range, use of active RFID tags with an inherently greater range, a limited number of moving RFID readers that scan RFID tags, and the like.

CRN in Royalties Expected To Increase Cost Of RFID:

The price of electronic tags used to track supply-chain goods could swell if a key standard in the emerging technology, known as RFID, winds up including royalties.

If tag makers absorb the cost, then it will certainly affect already slim margins. Competition is expected to heat up over the next year as the largest manufacturers, such as Texas Instruments Inc., start increasing shipments significantly. Tag prices are expected to drop by about 25 percent by mid to late 2005.