We already talked here about RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags, but it was in a very different context. Check "Bye-Bye Bar Codes?" for details.
Today, Ephraim Schwartz, from InfoWorld, is telling us about another way to use RFID tags to control crowds -- and individuals.
I spoke with Vasily Suvorov, CTO of Moscow-based Luxoft, the leading IT company in Russia, part of IBS Group, with about 2,000 employees. Luxoft is doing work for the Saudi Arabian government and Boeing, among other organizations.
Every January, Saudi Arabia gets millions of pilgrims from around the world coming to Mecca for the hajj. It creates a huge problem for logistics, crowd control, and security.
To that end, Luxoft is developing the software that works with an RFID tag -- think of it as a smart UPC code -- that will be given to each visitor as part of their visa. Unlike the UPC code on a product in the supermarket, which describes the product, the tag being developed by Luxoft identifies each person in detail, including name, country of origin, where they are staying, and even what language they speak.
Stationary RFID readers around Mecca will pick up the data on each passerby for the purpose of monitoring crowd flow and predicting where people are going and how situations might unfold. The data will flow into a command center, Suvorov says, and depending on the information, local team leaders in the field could delay an event or change the direction of the group they are leading.
For sure, it's an interesting development. But would you trust the Saudi Arabian government to use this technology only to help people? I would not even trust my own one. This is an intrusive technology, and you don't know what people in charge can do with it. Clearly too dangerous for my taste.
Source: Ephraim Schwartz, InfoWorld, September 6, 2002