Last January 4, 2009, The Land Transportation Office of the Philippines (LTO) finally implemented Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) System on all private and public motor vehicles in the Philippines. Under this new project, all automobile owners will be required to pay Php 350 for the electronic RFID tag, the size of a peso bill, to be plastered on the upper-middle panel of every car's windshield.
sample RFID sticker
I read in LTO official website that the agency was already planning to start the implementation of RFID way back in 2008 but only got to carry out the project early this year. I'd imagine that the delay was caused largely by the public's seeming disinterest in the technology - with some public transport groups questioning its legal basis as well as fairness in procurement procedures.
While I'm sure that it'd be interesting to talk about the legal bases and processes involved in LTO's RFID project, I think TechPinas - being a Tech Blog - should just focus on the technology behind RFID itself.
What is RFID ? What are the benefits of RFID ?
Basically, Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of a tag placed on or implanted into a living or non-living thing (cars, animals, humans, plants, etc.) for the purpose of its identification and/or tracking using radio waves. Because radio waves travel long distances without losing integrity, RFID tags can be read beyond the line of sight of the reader, up to several meters away.
Because of this amazing feature of RFID, it is widely considered as one of the most effective and reliable identification systems in the world - beating out Barcoding by a mile. The technology is being used across the globe in various industries - from retail to transportation, logistics to food industry. In Hong Kong, for example, public transit fare collection is done via RFID card technology. The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, on the other hand, began using RFID tags as permanent replacement for barcode tags.
What are the benefits of RFID - especially in the Philippine transport setting ?
LTO's Chief Assistant Secretary Arturo Lomibao stresses that RFID could very well help in eliminating out-of-line and colorum public vehicles, and thwarting criminality and solving road crimes like car theft. ***
What are the concerns?
Globally, one of the biggest concerns against RFID is Privacy Intrusion.
Since an RFID tag can be read at a distance without the knowledge of the tagged individual or the owner of a tagged object, it becomes possible to gather sensitive private data without consent.
In the Philippines, as it appears, RFID concerns are rooted on issues regarding public bidding and consultation, cost of technology and distrust in the implementing agencies. Quoting George San Mateo, PISTON Secretary General ***:
"Lalong magpapasahol ng korapsyon sa kalsada (The scheme would just worsen corruption on the streets),"
While these are valid concerns, I believe that they could, nonetheless, be prevented or answered by the presence of an active third-party agency like the media to monitor the activities of the implementing body.
The wonders and benefits of RFID technology are undeniable. Nations - the world over - benefit from RFID and I think the Philippines should likewise reap from the rewards of the technology.
The concerns regarding RFID implementation are valid but could be properly addressed by the government.
UPDATE (via Yahoo News (also *** source) ) : January 12, 2009: The Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order which effectively enjoins the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) from implementing the controversial Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) project.
"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," Marquez said.
Marquez said 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.
TP Reader, what's your take on the issue? Let me know your thoughts on RFID system via comments section. :)