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The LTO’s Fishy RFID ‘Innovation’ Is Suspended But… (Retitled/Updated)

January 5, 2010

What’s all the fuss about this RFID, the windshield stick-on radio frequency identification device that the Land Transportation Office is now requiring all motor vehicle owners to buy as a new requirement when they register?

The RFID is touted as the LTO’s high-tech ‘innovation’ to effectively track carjacked vehicles,

Nothing wrong, right?

But what has people’s suspicions up is the total PhP 500++  per unit cost of the ‘service’, and the very curious timing of the imposition with the elections just around the corner.

Yes, the midnight character of this LTO transaction with the technology provider smells like it a fund raising racket both for the administration and its insider proponents in the LTO.

Do the numbers given the millions of vehicles on our roads.

The gravy overflows, most surely.

Even the National Economic Development Authority’s requisite prior approval was not obtained for the project that’s a baby of Stadcom, the same provider of the LTO’s previous ‘sumptuous’ data computerization deal.

The RFID stunt will supposedly pump PhP 1.6B in revenues.

Into hose pockets many wonder???

You know what else makes not a few people suspicious?

The LTO has not done its own independent study of the upsides and downsides, depending only on the say-so of Stradcom it seems!!!

Let me share some notes:

Technical problems with RFID
Problems with RFID Standards

RFID has been implemented in different ways by different manufacturers; global standards are still being worked on. It should be noted that some RFID devices are never meant to leave their network (as in the case of RFID tags used for inventory control within a company). This can cause problems for owners.

RFID systems can be easily disrupted
Since RFID systems make use of the electromagnetic spectrum (like WiFi networks or cellphones), they are relatively easy to jam using energy at the right frequency. Although this would only be an inconvenience for consumers in stores (longer waits at the checkout), it could be disastrous in other environments where RFID is increasingly used, like hospitals or in the military in the field.
Also, active RFID tags (those that use a battery to increase the range of the system) can be repeatedly interrogated to wear the battery down, disrupting the system.

RFID Reader Collision
Reader collision occurs when the signals from two or more readers overlap. The tag is unable to respond to simultaneous queries. Systems must be carefully set up to avoid this problem; many systems use an anti-collision protocol (also called a singulation protocol. Anti-collision protocols enable the tags to take turns in transmitting to a reader.

RFID Tag Collision
Tag collision occurs when many tags are present in a small area; but since the read time is very fast, it is easier for vendors to develop systems that ensure that tags respond one at a time.

Security, privacy and ethics problems with RFID

An RFID tag cannot tell the difference between one reader and another. RFID scanners are very portable; RFID tags can be read from a distance, from a few inches to a few yards.

RFID tags can be read a greater distances with a high-gain antenna
For various reasons, RFID reader/tag systems are designed so that distance between the tag and the reader is kept to a minimum (see the material on tag collision above). However, a high-gain antenna can be used to read the tags from much further away, leading to privacy problems.

This further info:

Is RFID Technology Secure and Private?
Unfortunately, not very often in the systems to which consumers are likely to be exposed. Anyone with an appropriately equipped scanner and close access to the RFID device can activate it and read its contents. Obviously, some concerns are greater than others. If someone walks by your bag of books from the bookstore with a 13.56 Mhz “sniffer” with an RF field that will activate the RFID devices in the books you bought, that person can get a complete list of what you just bought. That’s certainly an invasion of your privacy, but it could be worse. Another scenario involves a military situation in which the other side scans vehicles going by, looking for tags that are associated with items that only high-ranking officers can have, and targeting accordingly.

This is by no means a wholesale rejection of the LTO ‘innovation’.

But the seeming haste of the LTO, the lack of adequate public knowledge on the technology, the manner the deal was struck, and the political climate of mistrust all make the project hard to swallow without question.

My journalist friend Ira Panganiban, who specializes on the motoring beat, among others, share further:

Last year alone, LTO logged 5.5 million cars registered, that is p2.75 billion at p500@. Insiders reveal this project \2was hastily filed by Mr. Bert Suansing in February of 2009 right after taking over LTO (from the LTFRB) and had approved by Sec. Leandro Mendoza by May 19.

The RFID “is actually useless.” according to NEDA  insiders because of the proliferation of cellphones and other transmitters. Only the military application is useful.

Selected reference links:


The Supreme Court has procedurally suspended the questionable project implementation pending hearings on the case filed by oppossitors.

A minor victory, methinks:

SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez:

The status quo ante order is issued that means the prevailing situation prior to the implementation of RFID shall prevail until further orders from the course. That is of course to that is to prevent continuous irreparable injury to the parties
This means vehicles owners who have been charged by the LTO for the installation of the RFID stickers can seek reimbursements since the Court’s order is to restore the situation prior to its implementation.
The SC has also given the DOTC 10 days to comment on the petition seeking to declare as unconstitutional the RFID project.

Don’t call out the marching bands just yet.

Something is being cooked up at the LTO and by supplier Stradcom.

Wagging tongues say papers are being backdated to make it appear the RFID is simply a component of  the larger IT services contract of Smartmatic to justify why the project was no longer bidded out!!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. fliph permalink
    January 5, 2010 8:59 pm

    IIMO, the technical arguments in this post have no significant relevance. RFID had been around for quite some time now. Surely there are technical roadblocks, but it doesn’t mean we should rule-out the technology just because of that.

    Of course, if we’re talking about a service provider who can’t even assure 99.99% uptime during official working hours, then that’s a different issue 😉

    The only viable alternative is a system of high-speed cameras that are connected to a powerful data center equipped with a license plate reading software which can process hundreds of vehicles per second, just like what they use in UK and some parts of the EU. Of course, we can’t fit our roads to have high-speed cameras every 2 kilometers, and don’t have enough money for a powerful data center don’t we?

    On privacy and security concerns, surely the data in these RFID tags will be encrypted to the point that odds of breaking the code is unimaginable (except of course if the actual decryption program code is leaked). Sure any uncertified reader can read RFID cards, but the information those will capture will not make sense.

    Besides, capable people can track down your location accurate up to a thousand meter radius using your IP address but no one seems to care about that. People keep using Google’s services and in the future it may be possible for one company to have all relevant interesting information on most of the world’s people, but the world isn’t forcing Google to shut down. Soon most vehicles will be fitted with a computer, equipped with GPS and a mobile Internet connection and we’ll be broadcasting our whereabouts every second of our way… and we’ll not even notice we’re doing it.

    If you have a mobile phone that is perpetually connected to the Internet, how sure are we that out network provider (or some unwanted software) is not collecting and sending your aggregated information to their servers?

    We now live in a new world of “openness” and our old notion of privacy will be buried in the ground. The only ones who would continue to protect it are paranoids, or perhaps terrorists (as the Physicist Michio Kaku would say).

    I think this is not a technical or a security issue, it is more of a timing one.


    • January 6, 2010 4:25 am

      We’re essentially on the same page. B ut the timing and the undedr the table ‘arrangement’ and the manner this deal was cooked makes it both immoral and probably illegal.

  2. January 6, 2010 4:30 pm

    there is no argument about the technology and its uses….you are right sir and i totally agree with you….i agree too that the timing is wrong and the manner in which it was sprung on the public too….the question for this is why force it now?….seeing the amount involved and the true amount of an rfid chip….which is about as expensive as a sim card….why now?

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