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How the RFID Authentication Function Works

How the Authentication Function Works
At any point along the supply chain, users can read a tag via a handheld or fixed reader and issue the Gen2v2 "Authenticate" command. The command presents a random challenge to the tag chip, which then computes a response using its secret key and returns it to the reader. The device then sends the tagged item's data to the solution provider's product databased in the cloud, which checks the item data and communicates with the authentication service to confirm the tag chip's authenticity. The entire process takes place within milliseconds, Dossett says.

If the chip fails the authenticity check, an alert is sent back to the product database. The software could then display a flag in the application or software, or it could alert the user through other notifications that a product needs to be removed from the supply chain or shelf. The authentication data can also provide additional business data if the tag is read during the supply chain. By identifying at which point the counterfeit product and tag were captured, the system enables users to go upstream in the supply chain and identify where a fake product was introduced.

The entire interrogation and authentication process can take longer than simply reading a tag's ID number, because it requires interaction with a server in the cloud. However, Dossett says, it can still be accomplished at high speed. "This system is designed to be highly efficient," he states, adding that some factors, such as network latency in a particular environment, would vary for specific applications and locations. "However, we're leveraging core Impinj RAIN capabilities, with a speed to read [tags] potentially up to 1,000 tagged items per second."

Fast Item Tag Capture, Even in High Volumes
Because of that relative speed, Dossett says, the M775-based tag retains the operational efficiency of standard RFID tag reads used for inventory counts. "It's a very slight change in the milliseconds," he states, "almost imperceptible." In some cases, the technology is expected to give brands and customers their first reason to consider and deploy RFID, if their key challenge was brand protection. For other use cases, he adds, it will extend the value of existing RFID deployments.

There are other non-UHF RFID brand-authentication technologies available in the market, which are often used by high-value brand owners, such as those making designer accessories like leather handbags or liquors. While UHF RFID technology has traditionally been focused on providing visibility and inventory management, brand authentication on high-value items in smaller volume has been enabled by such technologies as Near Field Communication (NFC), QR codes and Bluetooth.

With the incorporation of authentication within UHF RFID tag reads, the solution is aimed at relatively fast item tag capture, the company reports, even in high volumes. Authentication based on QR codes or NFC, on the other hand, which could be accomplished with a smartphone, cannot be done at these high rates. While phone-based authentication technologies provide benefits for specific applications, Dossett says, "We think this [counterfeit] problem is massive, but [existing] solutions are focused on a very small subset of products and items in the marketplace."

Bringing UHF RFID to New Users for Brand Authentication
Apparel will be one category the solution targets. Others could include pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, tools or construction materials and equipment—think steel, cement, bolts or electric cables, the company indicates.

The M775 is the latest member of Impinj's M700 series of ICs, and the first of the company's products to incorporate a cryptographic engine. The chip is somewhat more expensive than a standard Impinj UHF RFID chip offering only a unique ID, Dossett notes, adding, "It has a price point that reflects that we built some additional logic in that chip." He calls the added digital logic a "modest impact" on pricing, which would be offset by the value the added functionality offers.

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