« October 2004 | Main | January 2006 »

December 21, 2005

Will Bird Flu Scare You into Getting Chipped?

Beware! Americans are being prepped for a big health crisis that could scare them into lining up for a VeriChip.

In a new AP article out today, a "government advisor" is painting a bleak picture of America under seige by the bird flu. He claims that people might be too sick or too scared to go to work, companies could go bankrupt, and citizens might not have basic necessities. Here's a snippet from that article, titled "Few companies prepared for a flu pandemic":

Public health specialists and the government are pressuring businesses to prepare for a worldwide outbreak of the bird flu or some other superstrain of influenza, a crisis that could bankrupt many companies if their workers are too sick or scared to show up and their supply chains disappear.
The concern isn't just because of economics, but because many companies provide products and services that people literally can't live without, said Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, who advises the government.
"Automobiles, jewelry and electronics will not be big ticket items" during the next flu pandemic, Osterholm notes. "We still have to feed people. How do we assure we have heat, fuel oil, electricity?"

Of course VeriChip board member and spokesperson Tommy Thompson is very concerned about this scenario, too. So much so, that he and his new Deloitte & Touche health think tank commissioned a survey to prove how ill prepared companies are for this questionable disaster on the horizon. According to the article, the survey will be unveiled behind closed doors to 25 companies and health officials this Friday.

Can't you see this drama leading to the suggestion that Americans get chipped as a way to keep us all safe in the impending crisis? I'm predicting the chip will be touted as a way to keep tabs on those who are sick so they can't infect you or your loved ones--and even protect you in your time of need should you become ill and be unable to speak in the event of an emergency.

Something's up.

According to some doctors and researchers, the bird flu is not the contagion health spokespeople would like you to think. Check out these links for other viewspoints on the human risks of avian flu:

Eliminating Bird Flu Fears by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny

Bird Flu Doctor Says Fear is Exaggerated at the UK Times Online

Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 11:59 AM | Comments (4)

December 19, 2005

Way cool T-shirts!

Look what a brilliant CASPIAN correspondent in Australia created: awesome "No VeriChip Inside" T-Shirts. (I want one!)
These will be available in early 2006. Get yours at Sk8angr.com.
(They've even got an Anti-VeriChip page.)

Posted by Katherine Albrecht at 10:08 PM | Comments (4)

Boston research firm is promoting item-level tagging

A story just in from RFID Update reports that AMR Research of Boston is promoting item-level tagging of goods sold in retail stores.

Of course, privacy experts have condemned item-level tagging as a privacy menace since 2003. Item-level tagging of consumer goods is a clear violation of the Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Goods that CASPIAN co-authored with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. That statement was endorsed by over 40 of the world's leading privacy and civil liberties experts, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EPIC, the ACLU, Privacy International, and others.

Does AMR have any idea what sort of backlash retailers will experience from consumers if they pursue item-level tagging? No out-of-stock reduction could possibly be worth the pounding stores will get from consumers when they discover RFID tags affixed to their clothing and cosmetics.

Here's the rest of the story from RFID Update:

50% OOS Reduction from Item-Level Tagging

AMR Research of Boston, Massachusetts, has released a report that suggests item-level RFID tagging can yield significant benefits today if managed correctly. When targeted only at certain consumer goods categories, item-level tagging can yield a whopping 50% improvement in stock availability. Furthermore, there can be a 15% to 20% savings win on the labor costs attributed to restocking and replenishment.

AMR cites three categories ripe for item-level tagging: DVD and video games, high-end fashion, and commonly stolen or counterfeited goods like pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. In most of these instances, the benefit of tagging individual items derives from their high profitability. Employing RFID as a means of decreasing out-of-stocks on these lucrative items drives higher sales and meaningful benefit. DVDs, which produce a statistically very high return per sales-floor square foot, are a prime example. As the report says, "... 60% to 70% of the lifetime sales of a new DVD will be seen in the first week of its release. Investing in systems that ensure that stock is always available during these high-traffic times is mission critical."

Despite the benefits, an item-level RFID deployment must be made with deliberate care, says AMR. There are a number of necessary steps retailers must take to achieve the desired results. In the first place, there needs to be RFID readers in the retail store and in the backroom to capture key shelf-level events (such as an empty shelf) and then be able to process them (by querying the backroom for existence of the product with which to restock the shelf). There must also be labor process reengineering such that when actionable events like empty shelves occur, employees are alerted and address the situation efficiently and effectively. Also necessary is a wider corporate infrastructure that is able to process, leverage, and provide visibility onto the new RFID data. Lastly, the retailer should recognize the shift in approach that item-level tagging represents and proactively manage the change from the existing processes to the new ones. This "change management" will require engaging and educating everyone from store-level laborers to merchandising managers. It is a step that should not be underestimated. After all, when implementing a targeted item-level tagging solution at the store level, "the process map is as important as the technology architecture."


About RFID Update - Launched in early 2004 to provide timely analysis of RFID industry news, RFID Update publishes editorial briefings every weekday for the growing ranks of top level executives involved in the deployment of RFID projects. Each issue distills the impact of global RFID developments by providing an analytical summary of news and matters pertinent to successful RFID implementations. Free for RFID executives and professionals.

RFID Update Editor: Will Smith, editor@rfidupdate.com
Press releases and public relations inquiries should be directed to Will.

To advertise in RFID Update, email advertising@rfidupdate.com to request a media kit.

RFID Questions? Ask at RFID Talk: www.RFIDtalk.com.

Recommend RFID Update to your colleagues. Tell them to subscribe free at: www.RFIDupdate.com

RFID Update
The RFID Industry Daily

Posted by Katherine Albrecht at 9:12 PM | Comments (2)

Ad-Age features our opposition to Walgreens' RFID plans

'Spy Chip' Critics Cite Future Consumer Implications

December 13, 2005
By Jack Neff

CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- The planned rollout of a radio-frequency identification system to track promotional displays in 5,000 Walgreens stores is raising objections from privacy advocates, who cite patents as proof the system could eventually track consumers using RFID chips in loyalty cards.

In what appears to be the largest marketing application yet of RFID, the system from privately held Goliath Solutions at Walgreens electronically tracks when, how long and where displays are placed in stores. It allows the 15 package-goods marketers who have initially signed on to the program to track results of promotions by store or demographic cluster.

It also lets participating manufacturers send representatives to stores that haven't put up displays and time local, regional or national advertising according to when displays are in place. The system doesn't involve putting RFID chips on products consumers take home.

Out of the store

But the privacy group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering cites two patents and two pending applications by Goliath that envision extending the system to track individual consumers in stores and target ads to them at home by using RFID chips embedded in loyalty cards.

One of the patents, granted in October, for example, outlines using RFID readers to count how many consumers are exposed to a particular display or to identify consumers who "closely identified a display for a predetermined amount of time" by reading their loyalty cards. The patent envisions consumers flashing their loyalty cards in the vicinity of the displays or, it adds: "The card could be read in a shopper's purse." The patent also covers gathering data about which displays individual consumers frequent in retailer databases to provide "personalized incentives" and "focus subsequent advertising material, such as direct mail."

Vows to protect privacy

"I couldn't speculate on the future and I could never say never about anything," a Walgreens spokesman said. But he added: "All we're doing at this point is looking at using this technology to get better performance out of our displays in the stores, and that's it." Walgreens doesn't have loyalty cards, he said.

"We are absolutely focused on not impacting consumer privacy," said Robert Michelson, CEO of Goliath.

In a statement, he said Goliath is not using the system in Walgreens to track consumers and that the RFID tags there are attached to displays and signs only, not on any products. "Consumer privacy is not an issue in that displays and signs are part of the store. Consumers do not purchase them."

He did not respond to questions regarding future plans to use the Goliath system to track consumers in stores using RFID-enabled loyalty cards.

Liz McIntyre, communications director of CASPIAN and co-author of the recently published anti-RFID book "Spychips," said she knows of no retailers that currently use RFID chips in loyalty cards, a practice that was fraught with controversy for the one retailer caught trying it. German retailer Metro recalled its frequent-shopper cards in 2004 after CASPIAN founder Katherine Albrecht discovered an RFID chip in a sample card given to her by the chain.

Slippery slope

But Ms. McIntyre said technology suppliers like Goliath and retailers like Walgreens are likely to try to maximize returns from investment in infrastructure by expanding use of RFID tracking to consumers. "Today, they may just be monitoring displays," she said.

"Tomorrow, they could be monitoring individual shoppers and siphoning information from them without their knowledge or consent."

She noted promotional material from Goliath touts its system's invisibility to shoppers and store personnel, citing an ability to track RFID signals from "well beyond 30 feet" and to embed readers unobtrusively in light fixtures or above ceiling tiles.

"Once RFID crosses the line from the warehouse to the store floor, that's where we have an objection," Ms. McIntyre said, adding that the group believes any use of RFID in stores should be disclosed to consumers. But she said the group hasn't decided yet what if any action to take regarding the Walgreens program.


Posted by Katherine Albrecht at 11:50 AM | Comments (3)

December 16, 2005

Cash, check, or iPod?

Here's the latest RF-based cashless payment method. It's an iPod, of all things, equipped with a radio frequency transmitter.

Though Contactless News calls it "cool," any time you use a unique ID number to make a payment (whether it's through a credit card, an iPod, or a chip implant) you create a trail of your purchases -- and your whereabouts.

To me, nothing says "cool" like a handful of anonymous greenbacks.


Source: Contactless News, 12-14-05


Posted by Katherine Albrecht at 4:28 PM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2005

AP: Tommy Thompson still plans to get chipped

Tommy Thompson still plans to "get chipped" with a VeriChip/VeriMed implantable RFID device, according to a new AP story. The former Secretary of Health and Human Services and four-time governor of Wisconsin made a commitment to undergoing the procedure back in July of 2005, but has never followed through.

When we contacted VeriChip Corporation spokesman John Procter about the delay, he said Thompson was "too busy." He added that Thompson "wants to see it [the VeriChip] in a real-world environment first," and that he was trying to arrange a tour for Thompson at Hackensack University Medical Center, the first hospital to implement the technology in its emergency room.

You can read the whole story in our recent press release.

We were hoping that Mr. Thompson was having a change of heart about the procedure, but he told AP that he will be eager to get chipped when the time is right. "In fact," he said, "I'll be in the front of the line."

The line?

Apparently, Mr. Thompson envisions a mass chipping at some point--something VeriChip has been planning.

When I asked Mr. Procter why the human version of the VeriChip implant contains a 16-digit number instead of a nine-digit number like the nearly identical pet chipping version, he told me the longer number would provide "flexibility." He said the extended numbering scheme would ensure more unique numbers would be available for the large number of people they were planning to implant at some point in the future.

I'm hoping VeriChip's "planning" is just wishful thinking. But considering the words of Senator Joseph Biden to Judge John Roberts during his Supreme Court Confirmation hearings on September 12, 2005, mass chipping plans could really be in the works. He said:

Can a microscopic tag be implanted in a person's body to track his every movement? There's actual discussion about that. You will rule on that -- mark my words -- before your tenure is over.

Liz McIntyre

Posted by liz at 9:45 AM | Comments (7)