RFID
RFID Talk Blog

Privacy concerns hit the slopes; RFID-enabled ski passes under fire

Remember a few years ago when word got out that Levi Strauss was piloting RFID at a couple of its outlet stores? The news spread like wildfire, and privacy advocates were picketing the stores soon after, claiming that the RFID tags would be used to track customers and steal their identity.

Well, look at how far tagging has come in the apparel industry. Item level tagging is all the rage for apparel retailers. Now, the privacy issues are hitting other industries where RFID usage is more in its infancy, such as the skiing industry. RFID makes perfect sense for ski resorts. Instead having an employee with a bar code reader scan every skiier coming through the lift line, the process can be done automatically with RFID. It’s all about reducing lift lines, right? (Although I would miss the jokes that the lift attendant at Cranmore provides).

Since Vail Resorts launched its RFID-based social media application called EpicMix, there has been increased backlash against the technology. EpicMix measures vertical feet and terrain skied by users and the lifts they ride. Skiiers who choose to do so can also share their information with friends on Facebook. (I hope to make it out to Vail this winter to trial the technology!)

However, those who are worried about invasion of privacy and having their data stolen are turning to something called Ski Pass Defender, a device designed to allow skiers to activate the RFID-enabled season passes only when they choose to, such as when passing through the lift gate.

An article in ESPN Action Sports says that nearly 700 Ski Pass Defenders have been sold already, and that the $15.95 device is starting to make its way into ski stores as well.

From the article:

The SPD, which sells for $15.95, is comprised of two aluminum-backed sheaths attached to a lanyard. The aluminum prevents the RFID chip from being read. To board a lift, an alligator-style clip is squeezed, activating patented “squeeze to read” technology, allowing passholders to control when and how the information on their RFID chip can be shared.

Other entrepreneurs are breaking into the RFID protection market — sleeves, wallets and bags are being made to prevent RFID-chipped passports and credit cards from being read, and portable devices such as the RFID Guardian alert users when their chips are scanned.

RFID guru Patrick Sweeney of ODIN was at Keystone on opening day this month, and got to try out the technology. Read his account of the EpicMix experience here.

 

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