Friday, January 20, 2006

RFID: New Hampshire HB 203 - Passed in the House

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed HB 203 (see my blog 1/5/06). Next stop for HB 203 is the New Hampshire Senate.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

RFID: FDA Anti-Counterfeit Drug Initiative Workshop

The FDA Anti-Counterfeit Drug Initiative Public Workshop and Vendor Display is scheduled for February 8-9, 2006, in Bethesda, Maryland.

According to the DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Docket No. 2005N–0510 (Anti-Counterfeit Drug Initiative Workshop and Vendor Display), the three objectives of the meeting are:

To identify incentives for widespread adoption of radio-frequency identification (RFID), as well as obstacles to the adoption of RFID across the U.S. drug supply chain and possible solutions to those obstacles.

To solicit comment on the implementation of the pedigree requirements of the
Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA) and the use of an electronic pedigree

To learn the state of technology development related to electronic track and trace and e-pedigree technology solutions.

Interested individuals, organizations, and vendors may register on-line to attend the workshop, display their products or deliver a presentation to the FDA's Counterfeit Drug Task Force.

Understand that whether or not to proceed with electronic pedigree (e.g., RFID) is not open for discussion. The FDA is moving forward with electronic track-and-trace, regardless of how you or I or anyone else feels about it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

RFID: New Hampshire HB 203

The New Hampshire House Commerce Committee has unanimously recommended passage of a consumer privacy protection bill, which has already been tagged as the model for future consumer privacy legislation.

It's encouraging to see the citizens of New Hampshire take an active role in crafting their own future. This bill's existence is a sign of increased consumer awareness of RFID and potential abuse of the technology.

I have listed the provisions of HB 203 in italics below, followed by my comments (non-italicized). If indeed future legislation will be modeled after HB 203, we must make sure that the bill truly protects and doesn't just pacify.

HB 203 includes the following provisions:
1. Stipulates that no consumer product or identification document (such as a credit card or ATM card) to which a tracking device has been affixed, may be sold without a label containing a universally accepted symbol. The requirement also applies to packaging of the product.
There are no stipulations about the location of the label on the product or package. Therefore, a label affixed to the product inside a package, or to an internal portion of the package itself would satisfy the labeling requirement, but be undetectable by the consumer. From the perspective of consumer notification, nothing would be accomplished.

2. Requires that identifying labels be affixed to the product or document or its packaging by the entity that implants the tracking device in the product or by the entity that imports products that contain tracking devices.
The earlier in the supply chain that a label is affixed, the easier it is to obscure the label from consumer view.

3. Prohibits anyone from implanting tracking devices into human beings without the informed consent of either the individual or a legal guardian.
Is this really the issue? I'm sure that some people are afraid of stealth implantation, but the larger issue is the potential curtailment-- of access, commerce, resources, transportation, and other freedoms-- for people who are unwilling to accept an implant. "The Such & Such Company is pleased to inform you that we are converting to RFID-based commerce for all of our consumer services. We regret that we will no longer be able to serve those of you techno-dinosaurs who elect not to receive an RFID implant, but we wish you good luck in finding a non-RFID-based gas & electric provider/ bank/ pharmacy/ grocery store/ hospital..." That's the real fear.

4. Prohibits the state or any of its political subdivisions from issuing any radio frequency devices to track individuals, with exceptions such as incarcerated prisoners or residents of nursing or assisted-living facilities.
'Exceptions such as'... what exactly does that mean? Is the tracking limited to incarcerated prisoners and residents of nursing or assisted-living facilities or not? If not, what are the other exceptions?

5. Establishes a commission on the use of tracking devices to study their usage in government and business and monitor their effect on the economy and society. That's broad and vague enough to ensure that not much of anything gets done. Study their usage and do what? Monitor their effect and do what? Who will conduct these studies and how will they be conducted? Who is going to oversee the commission? What are the limits of its authority? Etc.

Unflinching analysis of proposed legislation is necessary to ensure adequate and appropriate protection for all citizens.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

RFID: VICS AND AAFA - Worst Foot Forward?

The Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards Committee (VICS) and the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) announced this week the release of a report titled, "Moving Forward with Item-Level Radio Frequency Identification in Apparel/Footwear."

The report is the result of a four-month study of the impact of RFID on manufacturing, distribution/logistics, inventory management, store operations, finance, loss prevention, and merchandising, to help member companies determine the right starting point for RFID evaluation.

Highlights include:
Where RFID item-level tagging provides the greatest value along the value chain
Who stands to benefit most from RFID
Which merchandise categories are best-suited to deriving tangible benefits

The study asserts that for companies to derive benefits from item-level tagging they should look first to the retail store environment. "Item-level RFID has the potential to bring new levels of inventory visibility and profit improvement, which could not be achieved through conventional means, across the apparel industry."

Once again, the benefits of RFID to the retail industry are overt and seductive, but there is no mention of benefit to the consumer. In fact, there is no mention of the consumer at all, except for a closing nod to EPCglobal's Guidelines for Consumer Privacy. "We encourage retailers and suppliers who embark on item-level RFID to responsibly address consumer privacy concerns by adhering to EPCglobal's
Guidelines for Consumer Privacy."

The RFID industry spends a lot of time and money defending the business case for RFID. Perhaps consumers would be less defensive if the industry did a better job communicating consumer benefits of the technology.

Well? We're waiting...