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DSRC - threat or promise? 21/7/2004
A new report from an American research organisation claims that the emerging DSRC market has serious implications for motorists and the general public in its ability to track and log the movement of vehicles. At the same time, Canadian officials have raised questions about the future direction of RFID technology.

A report from ABI Research - Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC): The Emerging Wi-Fi and RFID Market for Advanced Automotive Identification, Commerce and Communications - paints a picture of real-time traffic updates beamed directly into a vehicle's navigation system, universal automatic toll collection and intelligent safety systems. It warns, however, that the technology is also capable of tracking and logging vehicles' movements and usage.

"It looks like there's going to be a massive infrastructure installation in the US later this decade, probably largely funded by the Department of Transportation," said Dan Benjamin, an analyst with ABI Research. "But it's hard to talk about specifics because no budget or roadmap has been established, yet."

Acknowledging the limitations and cost of completing the current 802.11 networking system within the US as ell as ongoing issues of compatibility, the report suggests that the WiMAX and fixed wireless broadband industries might be best placed to seize the opportunity that is likely to be presented within the next 10 years.

On a related issue, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology has been subjected to a claim by the Canadian privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, that it is an "object of intense concern and attention" by government privacy officials around the world.

"(RFID tags) are," said Stoddart, "far more potentially invasive than video-surveillance cameras because they can be literally embedded in your daily life, almost embedded in you, certainly in the clothes you are wearing," said Stoddart.

RFID tags (microchips as small as a grain of sand) contain a unique 96-bit code of information that can be read and stored by RFID readers. Amongst its uses is the UK government's e-Plate project designed to provide real-time vehicle identification.

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