TECHNOLOGY: What is RFID?

A Radio Frequency IDentification chip is a tiny, flat microchip with a built-in antenna. Although they come in many shapes and sizes, they all respond in the same way: when a radio signal is sent out to the chip, the RFID is activated and broadcasts the information it contains.
Terrorist Beacons: Close up, the information broadcast from the RFID chip can be read by anyone with an inexpensive electronic reader. Farther away, the RFID chip can be activated enough to identify the nationality of passport holder.

Think of an RFID chip as an electronic version of the children’s game Marco Polo. When the RFID reader broadcasts ‘Marco’, the RFID chip replies ‘Polo’.

RFID is used by many manufacturers to track their supply chain, making sure that shipment ‘A’ gets to retailer ‘B’. Problems with RFID begin when the chips are used to track individual items, like clothing or passports. Few of us want to live in a ‘Minority Report’-like world where the RFID chips in our clothing broadcast when and where we bought them.

You have probably already heard of RFID passports, in the more commonly used appelation of “biometric passports”.

The RFID chip the US State Department wants to put in passports holds 64kb of information, five and a half times the amount of read-only data the Apollo 11 computer needed to put a man on the moon. This chip will contain all of the information currently on US passports, including a photograph. When an RFID reader says ‘Marco’ to the passport chip, the chip will broadcast the entire contents of your passport in a digital, copy-able format. The more power the reader sends out to the chip, the further away the chip can be read.

A few thousand dollars and a little technical know-how is all it takes to buy and modify an RFID reader, a trifling sum for professional kidnappers, organized crime, or terrorist groups.

One of the US State Department’s own RFID subcontractors has criticized the scheme, stating the RFID plan “disregards a basic privacy approach and leaves out the basic security methods we would have expected to have been incorporated for the security of the documents”.

Furthurmore, the US has required that, as of October 2005, citizens of all other coutries have RFID passports as well before obtaining visas.

Right now all countries in EU already have done the necessary, and even if some countries will probably not have everything ready by October, very soon all europeans will have biometric passports.

See also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID
http://www.eff.org/Privacy/Surveillance/RFID/

TECHNOLOGY: Technology Revolution

People everywhere sense the world is passing through a profound transformation, but they lack a convenient, reliable source of information to guide their understanding and to help them make decisions. The are many “Forecast” ressources on the web that can help out :

LIPSOR , 3IE and EPITA : Two labs and a universty provide free prospective software tools :
http://www.3ie.org/

The George Washington University Forecast
www.gwforecast.gwu.edu
(the site seems to be offline, but i have a backup here of the main forecast listing).
This system has been developed over the past ten years by Professor William E. Halal and his associates at The George Washington University. Results have been published in scientific journals, widely reported in the media, and attracted attention from corporations and governments around the globe. Earlier versions of the GW Forecast were conducted by mail, but is has been online since 1998. The Forecast presently focuses on emerging technologies, the driving force behind today’s change.
RESEARCH METHOD : The GW team keeps abreast of technological advances and management strategies by constantly scanning the literature and media, interviewing authorities, and drawing on other sources to identify emerging trends. These trends are then analyzed to select those that are most significant. Finally, a Delphi survey is used to solicit estimates from a panel of experts describing how these trends should develop. As of 1999, this panel consisted of approximately 65 research scientists, academic scholars, and consultants located around the world. The estimates are automatically aggregated using algorithms to calculate various forecasts of interest, the most likely year in which the breakthrough will occur, its associated confidence level, the potential economic demand, and so on. Individual forecasts can also be combined to produce a variety of vivid scenarios. We find this methodology to be very powerful. It can be used to forecast any issue in any field, the results are replicable within +/- 3 years on average, and the process itself enhances understanding.

http://www.nistep.go.jp/index-e.html
Publishes a Quarterly Review of Science & Technology Trends

European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
http://les.man.ac.uk
Different documents and surveys.
Foresight handbook : http://www.eurofound.ie

Ministry of Research, Science & Technology (MoRST), New Zealand
http://www.morst.govt.nz/
140 page document on Biotechnologies from now to 2025

Irish Council for Science, Technology & Innovation
http://www.forfas.ie/icsti/

Foresight Institute : ” goal is to guide emerging technologies to improve the human condition. Foresight focuses its efforts upon nanotechnology, the coming ability to build products—of any size—with atomic precision”…
http://www.foresight.org/