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RFID at the Olympics, Revisited

Contributed by Joanne C. Kelleher

Four years ago I wrote a blog post about the use of RFID at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing Olympic Tickets: RFID Security in Sports Illustrated

RFID technology was used in 2008 Olympic event tickets and the chips contained the bearer’s photograph, passport details, addresses, e-mail and telephone numbers. These RFID enabled tickets were touted as a deterrent and an anti-counterfeit device despite the fact that there appeared to be no security features incorporated into the RFID tags themselves. The publicity about these tickets focused on the fact that this technology was being used; most of the articles used the word RFID in the headline.

I was curious about how things have changed for the 2012 Olympics in London. This year, Near Field Communications (NFC) is being used for a variety of applications, but the word NFC isn’t in the headlines, and is often not mentioned at all.

Here are several examples of NFC applications being used at the 2012 Olympics:

Identive Provides Secure ID Solutions at London 2012 Olympics: Innovative Technology Includes Entry Systems for IOC Members and Guests at the Olympic Club and Cashless Payment for 100,000 Visitors at Alexandra Palace Hospitality Events

NFC does gets mentioned in Identive’s announcement: the contactless cards utilize Identive’s innovative tomPAY near field communication (NFC) tag technology, which allows them to be used both as conventional cashless payment cards and as NFC payment stickers for mobile phones.

This technical description contrasts with Visa’s announcements which only refer to chip-enabled contactless cards, not NFC. Visa showcases future of payments at the London 2012 Games –

The firm I-DENTI-FIED, which is providing to some US Olympic teams ID cards that access health care records, doesn’t even get that technical.  Their CEO is quoted as when that ID is scanned or accessed via some technology that we provide, (really, some technology?) Based on the description of the ID cards which was found on their website, that technology could be a RFID reader, QR or bar codes, a web based form or a phone number. Olympic Teams To Use Indiana Technology For Medical Records –

I found a number of generic references to RFID ticket usage at the Olympics on the websites of vendors that provide these products. For example, RFID entrance tickets are being used at concerts, major global sports events, including the Olympic Games, as well as at theme parks, and many more. Or Major sports events like the Olympic Games use RFID entrance tickets. But there was nothing specific about RFID tickets for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and these promotions could have been referring to the Beijing Games. It is unclear if RFID is not being used in this summer’s tickets or if it is no longer news worthy.

Here is the only application promoting the use of RFID at the 2012 Olympics that I could find.

Cadbury Offers RFID-enabled Treats During Summer Olympics: The candy company is using a UHF solution from Dwinq at Cadbury House, its temporary exhibit in London’s Hyde Park, to allow visitors to share pictures with their Facebook friends

Sharing photos via Facebook is a far cry from the aim of the Chinese to use RFID to prevent counterfeit tickets.

At the 2008 Games no one was talking about NFC, and in 2012 RFID is barely mentioned, so I look forward to seeing the technology that is selected for use at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.