Tuesday, February 01, 2011

RFID Reflections....

I have lately been researching RFID's.

Ever since the students at the exposed sham university in California (more on that later) were shown wearing ankle tags, that would tell the US Government where they were at any given moment, I have thought about how our government could use such RFID's.

The closest we have come to using these is for tagging tigers in wild life sanctuaries, to keep track of their dwindling numbers.

I can think of lots of other things that continue to dwindle in this country.

Honest politicians, principled businessmen, bureaucrats with integrity, ministers with a sense of shame and scruples, political parties with courage , parents of girls with guts, onions, chillies, tomatoes.....; the list can go on and on.

Tagging all these folks with RFID's might trigger a constitutional outcry, creating a windfall for some greedy lawyers.But there are some distinctly useful possibilities.

RFID chips were invented in 1969, and patented in 1979. In their simplest form, they can be as small as 1/3rd ,millimetre across, and can be embedded in things. They can be activated by a radio signal , and they get activated and respond, with data, that becomes useful information. Airline companies, shipping companies and militaries use this technology to trace their shipments.

This lends itself to several India centric applications.

1. To start with, create special RFID embedded stationery in Mantralaya in General and the Urban Development Dept in particular. All construction project-permissions /applications/clearances etc to be done on such RFID papers, with each project given a special RFID. This way you can track where the paper moves, and how long it stays there. Just think of how things would have been if Adarsh stuff had been RFID-ed.

2. So many court cases in India stagnate because the concerned parties do not turn up., and some cases that are filed are frivolous and waste the court's time. Sometimes the police deliberately delay filing things at the behest of powerful folks. It would be ideal if both parties could be RFID-ed, the minute a case was admitted in court. There would be no shame in this happening as several folks are routinely known to wear chains, amulets, rings and assorted things supposedly to protect them. A small RFID chip here and there shouldn't matter. This will result in an immediate drop in court cases filed in frivolity as some people will be faced with loss of face. The court will know how the defendant/respondent or whoever is moving around and where, and the law and order folks will get some pointers on what activities are going on. People can be cross questioned, but machines that report on you inertly, cannot.

3. All people consigned to jail must be RFID-ed. This way you can find out who is meeting who in jail. You can also follow the whereabouts of someone who has escaped from jail, and catch him.

4. Members of Legislatures and Parliaments, should voluntarily offer to be RFID-ed in the interests of the nation. It would be interesting to know where some members spend a lot of their time, when in Delhi, (and outside it) , and one could trace absent members . For those elected members who specialize in fighting and winning elections from jail , this would mean wearing 2 RFID's, and one would then be assigned to their P.A.

5. Municipal hospitals in Mumbai have been seeing a spate of babies being stolen from the gynaec and neonatal wards. It sounds a bit drastic but miniature RFID embedded tags for the newborns, embeddable by something like an inoculation action could be useful, and the baby would be traceable at all times, say, till it went home or was a year old etc.

Of course, in all these activities, the information gleaned from the response of the RFID to a signal from a server, will need to be observed , analysed and acted upon immediately by a human.

Currently, an indicting paper can be crushed and stuffed into a drawer and action can be delayed against some accused, if the law enforcement person is unscrupulous and greedy. Such folks will always exist, but the information received by the server will be read by many people, and hopefully, good people will outnumber the bad.

I wonder how things would have been if this technology was installed right at the inception of the CWG games in Delhi. I wonder what we would find out about spheres of influence ,if everyone in CBI was tagged with RFID tags.

At the end of the day, life is all about reading,observing,thinking, formulating an opinion and then acting on it.

RFID's or no RFID's.

I am not in the habit of googling RFID's. I got interested when I read about the TRi-Valley University.

Its web page is amazing and very badly written.

The website says "Tri-Valley University is a Christian Higher Education Institution" and its aim is :
to make Christian scientists, engineers, business leaders and lawyers for the glory of God, with both solid academic professionalism and Christian faith, therefore to live out Christ-like characters, value and compassion in the world, to make an impact and shine as its light. Our Institution Objective is to equip individual with academic excellence, practical skillfulness and spiritual maturity. We advocate Academic Excellence, Character Integrity, Christ-like Compassion, Inclusion and non-discrimination, and Integration-integration of academic professionalism with Christian faith, integration of principle with practical application, integration of career pursuit with spiritual growth.
A glance at the curriculum, description and qualifications of faculty, and announcements of Conferences is a lesson in how blatant, shameless and in-your-face the "university" was in attracting students whose objective was different from learning and education.

I felt bad seeing the students there being made to wear RFID tracking chips on their ankles.

Now I wonder .

I have personally seen first hand how students in India research universities, rankings, liaise with ex-students, and consult when deciding to apply for graduate school. I did that myself, fairly laboriously 40 years ago in the Non Internet days. And now I firmly believe that the students knew what they were getting themselves in to. That they were granted valid visas by the US is also true. However subsequent to that no one seems to have found anything strange in the fact that they all had the same California addresses and yet continued to live all over the US instead. And I would certainly expect the US government to clamp down heavily on such fake universities functioning under false pretences.

The faculty and alumni pages of the university are predominantly graced by folks , almost 95% of whom are from Andhra Pradesh, and China, and the description of alumni often ends with the sentence "he works for a company". (!). A few folks seem to be from Gujarat, but a minuscule quantity.

For an institution that offers undergraduate,postgraduate and doctoral "programs", the Research Page claims that its library boasts of a total of 10,000 books, and a computer lab with 13 laptops and 5 desktops with "Window" and Unix.

Did no one in the US Government read this ? And still at the end of the day, the students are treated as criminals with RFID tags, while the University personnel, face only a civil suit ?

Does this mean that this is an inspiration to the corner Internet Cafe place down the street from my house, to upgrade itself and call itself a University ? And does this mean some with a avaricious glint in their eyes and connections in useful places may possibly come up with something ? By possibly naming it after the currently popular leaders ?

On second thoughts have we done this somewhere before already ?

Just wondering.


  1. Gosh you should be writing for a newspaper..or I should ask you..do you write for a newspaper???...amazing analysis...I loved this post...

    Its a super idea to RFID the politicians to figure out what they do and where they go :):) and Tri-Valley university...sad state of affairs on what people can do anything just to BE abroad :(

    I discovered your blog pretty late :(..need to spend sometime reading the archives..will definitely do that!

  2. Lovely post, Suranga!

    The whole recent saga of the students from Andhra Pradesh is so depressing, isn't it? Corruption everywhere! Here in India as well as there in the States!

    I'm afraid it would be of no use even if we knew where MPs, etc. go, via RFID tagging. They would simply brazenly deny it even if shown the evidence!

    I'm visiting your blog after some time- have not been blogging/commenting for a while. I hope to get back into my usual 'groove' now. :)

  3. Can't believe that this is happening in 21st Century!

  4. Thank you for a fantastic post. It is shocking and somewhat depressing to know what really goes on.

  5. WOW !!! What a fantastic post and a super analysis too. :) :) Suranga, I certainly admire the way, u write ur posts...simply fantastic.

    LOL @ the places of RFID usage...I hope the reports from RFID are also tracked with RFIDs... ;)

  6. Catch hold of the US embassy people who granted these students their VISA without proper verification of the 1-20 papers. They need to be RFID-ed before anyone else.

  7. oh my i know a whole lot of facts now .. after reading ur article...

    its the same in UK too there are so many fake universitites and people from india who are 10th FAIL or lower than that have managed to get a HIGHER STUDIES VISA and are here... some of the indian officials with the help of UK officvials are at it i guess , making quick buck here

    I like ur idea of RFID being used in india and the points you have put across are very good and a must in the current scenario... But i am sure there will be someone sowmehre who will find a HACK for it too :)


  8. Actually love the idea of RFIDs on documents supposed to be processed by govt agencies. You have an entrepreneurial idea here! :-D