Styrian pumpkin-seed oil or cheap copy? When you choose a product, you want the quality you've paid for. But how can you test that what's inside is what it says on the label? The future of quality protection belongs to electronic components and so-called RFID tags. In the future, consumers will be able to test the authenticity of a product using their mobile phones.
For this, all the data has to be electronically checked. In the framework of the "Crypta" project supported by the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT), scientists from Graz University of Technology have now developed a prototype which safeguards objects according to new standards.
Whether for checking the origin of foodstuffs or as proof of authenticity of drugs, the future will bring an increased use of electronic assistants to make sure that the quality is right. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology enables objects to be identified wirelessly. "You need a reading device and an RFID tag which communicate with each other," explains project leader Jörn-Marc Schmidt from the Institute of Applied Information Processing and Communications at Graz University of Technology. There is a difference between active and passive tags. The former are connected to a power source whereas the latter draw the required power directly from the field of the reading unit, which makes them particularly suitable, for instance, for applications in supermarkets.
For a long time the same electronic keys were used for these energy-efficient passive tags and their readers -- using what experts call symmetrical methods. "In asymmetrical methods, the transmitter and receiver possess different keys. Secure digital signatures are thus made possible," adds Jörn-Marc Schmidt. Together with the semiconductor manufacturer austriamicrosystems and RF-iT Solutions GmbH, an RFID software and services provider from Graz, the researchers have now developed a prototype which uses a standard method for passive tags for the first time.
"For every tag there is a public key and a private key which remains secret," explains Jörn-Marc Schmidt. This is a development which could be made use of everywhere where proof of authenticity is important. The research results are the gratifying outcome of the Crypta research project of the FIT-IT funding line of the BMVIT, which supports application-oriented research in information technology in particular.
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