Two companies have developed new RFID chips that can help stop shoplifters:
RFID chips have long been promoted as a means of inventory control, but maybe not exactly this way. Two companies have created a chip that combines two radio-based technologies to help stymie shoplifters.
Right now, NXP Semiconductors and Kestrel Wireless are focusing on DVD theft. Their tiny chip, combining RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and Kestrel's proprietary RFA (Radio Frequency Activation) technologies, is embedded in the DVD, attached to a thin layer of electro-optic film that renders the disc unreadable. When the DVD is paid for, the chip is activated (presumably using a mechanism similar to today's checkout systems) and the film becomes clear.
The appeal to such a system is that retailers don't have to deal with annoying tags or locked cabinets -- they just have to make it clear that shoplifting is pointless, as the DVDs won't work unless the chips are activated. (Future applications of the chips in other items will rely on some other measure to render them unusable until paid for.) Somewhat refreshingly, the companies admit that their technology isn't hacker-proof, but pose enough of an inconvenience to be a deterrent.