January 18, 2009
By invitation, I recently visited a remote facility in northern Virginia to see a demonstration of NOX – a new Intelligent Perimeter Defense system deployed by the FBI that uses covert Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to track people and assets without their knowledge.
That’s right, using RFID to track people without their knowledge. This system is exactly what the privacy advocates have long feared: Big Brother tracking us with spy chips. As Orwellian as this sounds, the undisputed fact is that this system catches thieves and does so at a fraction of the cost of traditional security solutions.NOX combines high-resolution video pictures and RFID for identification, tracking and tracing, overlaid in real time on a facility map to show the movement of people and assets. The system allows security officers to see theft as it happens, even if the stolen object is inside a briefcase, under a jacket, or stuffed inside a sock.
What makes the NOX system I saw different from traditional security systems is that it uses RFID for clandestine surveillance: RFID readers are hidden inside walls, floors, and ceilings; RFID tags are discretely placed; and only the security personnel know that the system is in place – until the thief gets caught. Then, all the thief knows is that he or she was caught in the act, on video.