News in Brief; EU Commission wants to RFID everything

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The European Commission considers it to be part of the Lisbon Strategy - and therefore a top priority - 'to have smart dust and tag everything' with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

The point was made by Rosalie Zobel, Director of the Information Society Technologies (IST) programme at the Commission, in her opening speech of a one-day workshop on 'wireless tags research needs' in Brussels on 20 April 2004. Mrs Zobel thinks this aim can be achieved and dreams of it being "the source of a new set of business models and creator of high quality tech jobs".

The workshop was part of a consultation process in relation to Work Programme 2005-06, which covers the second half of the EU's Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6). The Work Programme will be officially published at the end of October, and is likely to contain three calls for projects that may be funded by the EU in the field of RFID technology with a total of 180 million euro.

The workshop dealt with a wide range of issues, from radio spectrum allocation and product life-cycle management to the protection of privacy. Though hardly any of the industry representatives present wanted to discourage Mrs. Zobel's hopes, they were generally more sceptic about a quick and large-scale roll-out of the technology.

Paul McCloskey, speaking for the Irish NMRC institute working on the so-called smart dust technology emphasised that Mark Weiser's 1991 vision of ubiquitous computing was still far from reality. His institute is still working with transponders the size of a cell phone, but miniaturisation is on the agenda and can be realised very swiftly, as other speakers pointed out. "In organic electronics, we are still in the 1970s, but the innovation process from the 1940s to the 1970s has taken place within the last three years", said Christian Pacha of Infineon on the technological approach of applying chips and antennas on items and packages already in the course of production.

Privacy issues in connection with RFID technology were brought up repeatedly, and the last panel consisted of three privacy experts warning against the industry's tendency to eliminate privacy-protective measures such as disabling options or encryption, in order to cut costs for the still-too-expensive technology.

Workshop website (20.04.2004):

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU affairs director)

EDRI-gram: bi-weekly newsletter about digital civil rights in Europe. Number 2.8, 21 April 2004. EDRI:

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