RFID Tracking System

[Nicholas] built an active tracking system using RFID tags. The system’s tags operate in the 2.4 GHz band and are used to track either people or assets. The readers are on a mesh network and can triangulate the location of any tag for display on a map. His system is even set up to show the travel history of each tag. [Nicholas] shared every detail in his writeup including some background about available hardware options and how he made his final decisions on what devices to use for the job. His conglomeration of software that ties the whole project together is also available for download.

42 thoughts on “RFID Tracking System

  1. I’ve been told by visitors to the Gate’s mansion that a similar system is already in use there. RFID cards regulate room atmosphere, lights and music settings as well as adjust art displayed on LCD flat screens through the building.

  2. Remarknl, there are a vast number of possible applications for real time locating systems that involve more than just tagging employees to make sure they aren’t taking daily naps in the broom cupboard. Try and your imagination before repeating the tired ‘OMG Big Brother’ spiel.

  3. Dan and Remarknl both have valid points. I wanted to implement a system like this at our manufacturing plant to replace several systems, namely our aged time-clock system and the key-card system for our doors. Ideally we could then implement simple tracking to do like Isa mentioned. Turning on aircon and lights when people enter rooms, etc. I was taking a stance of it being essentially anonymous except for doors and timeclocks, but unfortunately the union (and several managers) thought otherwise. In the end the plant ran out of money, I lost my job, and here we are. :-)

  4. Its just that rfid and chips as mifare are often used to track me. In the Netherlands we have got the “ov chipkaart” a card witch you need to travel with public transport. It does work at some fronts(faster to get on, no money needed) but it fails at privacy. There is a database where is stored where i go to, how late and probably more. It may be just me, but I don’t like such things. Of course it could be handy if you are tracking objects or pets. And if you want to spy on your nanny…

  5. This kinda thing was in the free ebook “Makers.” It was setup to coincide with bins that blinked when you were looking for a particular item. Very nifty for tracking objects in a house or workplace. I don’t think it should be used for tracking people though.

  6. for fucks sake szczys, read the article. the readers don’t triangulate (it would be trilaterate, anyway, as mentioned in the article) the position of the tag. @jg, khai: the setup only tells you which reader the object is closest to. you would need a lot of readers.

  7. They already experimented in UK malls tracking people by their cellphones, that’s a more clever hack because they are transmitting, and for tracking you don’t need to decode anything they transmit really just the fact that they transmit is already most of the work done, although they did put individual ID numbers on those they tracked to differentiate between them in those experiments I’m told.
    And yes fortunately many people weren’t happy when they heard about it, but my point is that if people carry signals, including RFID’s from products they bought even, and ID cards and CC’s with RFID and passports, you don’t need to spend money on giving them separate tags actually.

  8. I interviewed at a company that used a system exactly like this to study shopping patterns in grocery stores. They attached a tag to each cart and basket and built maps using the location data. Apparently stores were quite interested in exactly how their customers shopped.

  9. the rfid-unlocked doggy door is pretty smart. good way to keep those random animals from showing up in your house. it would also allow for the next line of automated pet feeder. the food drops out when the pet is near, with some overflow protection, like a weight sensor. & a water dispenser that taps directly into the cold water line of your house. using a float, or weight sensor, prevents overflow, while providing fresh cool water whenever your pet is near it. and then when your dog is on the couch, the tV turns on so they can watch their favorite shows.you could also design pet toys for rfid chipped pets.. like a bot that activates when rfid is in vicinity, and motion tracks your pet, constantly freaking it out, chasing it, squirting it with water, etc :D
    it would be nice to have some things chipped incase you lose them. and you could have your doorways detect rfid so you would know something of yours just walked out of the house.

  10. People saying: privacy issues – yes is a concern, but is it really that bad?

    Your bus pass means they can tell where you got on and off…as in, they can track what stops are important and what ones never get used…making the system more efficient. Knowing WHEN the system gets used by particular groups means they can plan routes around that too.

    I did the census help phone line, and people afraid of the government knowing who/where they are was a joke. a) it helps them make informed decisions about where to build infrastructure, and b) if you’re afraid of them knowing your doings – they probably already know about them.

  11. I was once in intern at AT&T research labs in Cambridge (UK). They had a fully operational employee tagging system. Details here: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/research/dtg/attarchive/location/

    They got round the privacy/employee hostility problem by making the badges completely voluntary. The tags made the employees lives easier: Doors opened as you approached, you computer desktop appeared on whichever computer you turned to, your phone calls came to the nearest phone. Most useful – you could ask the server where someone was and get told which room they were in – saving countless man hours of walking around looking for them.

    But under all of this was the view that it should be voluntary – if you wanted to leave your tag on your desk while you got a coffee/smoke/etc, that was fine. And enough people did just that to ensure that while the data was mostly useful to the employees, it couldn’t be used by management to *prove* anything.

    So with management understanding and buy-in, there are ways to make this privacy trade-off work and find a happy medium.

  12. @Hackius
    I think it would be better to reverse the reader and tags for a robotic application. The tags could be plugged into electrical outlets and therefore not need batteries, and the reader on the robot could find the distance to the known tag locations. The tags could give off a stronger signal to actually allow a good signal strength reading from usable distances.

    I think this is similar to how the new roomba “lighthouses” work (just distance not localization).

  13. Neat, I think this would be neat if you had a whole bunch of stuff to store in boxes. You could inventory the stuff and put a tag on each box, then put them wherever, then find them immediately later on.

  14. Awesome! Exactly what i wanted to make! For indoor use only, though, i am worried about my privacy, and i don’t think it would be a large privacy break if someone would know i am in the kitchen :P

  15. If you have at least 1 RFID device on you, be it a passport, a bus card or whatever, it means where ever you pass near a rfid tag reader it will know the position and who knows where a reader can be located, only in the bus or on a churches door, inside a van or else.

    I love technology and I love to know how everything works, but we the people are inherently corrupt beings, and he who fails to recognize it is either lying or blind.

    I know that in this point of time, humanity is not mature enough to use certain technologies in a responsible manner.

  16. Jesus Titty Fuck!!!

    “Privacy, wah wah wah”. You use a loyalty card at the supermarket you give up more personal information than this thing, you bunch of paranoid pot smoking cunts.


    You’ve used yer Tesco Clubcard to earn £1 GBP off your next shopping bill because you are a tight fuck. You spent months topping up the points, during which time the card logged details about a sudden spike in ‘Travel’ related products such as Sun Block, Swimming Shorts/Bikini, Travel Insurance…now Tesco know approx, when you went on holiday. – You get the point I hope.

    Now fuck off back to your heavily fortified compound in the mountains somewhere, waiting for thur Government and tax man to kick your ass.

  17. @geon – The problem with using very small tags (stickers) is that it requires long range RFID readers. They are expensive, and put out a lot of RF power. Probably not a good idea.

    At the Last Hope conference they had something like this setup. I was surprised by it, it works pretty well! The active tags (tags that transmit) get around all of the issues that you’d have using a simple RFID tag coil.

    Good stuff!

  18. @Stephen

    Any more info on how to ‘reverse’ the application with the reader being with a robot and measuring distance between stationary tags? Any good resources on how I can implement something like that at a more basic level (I have very limited knowledge of RFID, etc).

  19. An individual machine that you may need within your kitchen area to keep it clean and neat is a dishwasher. Whether you have a big or a small kitchen area, you’ll opt for to have an additional appliance that would even now hold your kitchen in order. A dishwasher that could do this task is a slimline dishwasher. This dishwasher is quite functional, and its constructed narrower so that it can easily match into small spaces

  20. While there are countless positive applications that RFID could be deployed in that would help to simplify some daily social tasks, how often is technology used for the positive purposes that it was intended, and ONLY those positive purposes? How many products historically began as benign products that performed a noninvasive purpose, only to be hijacked and exploited for nefarious uses? Computers have been in existence, in some form, since the 1940’s. They were used exclusively by the military until the late 1980’s. Same story with the Internet. The Internet has been around since the 1960’s (No, Al Gore didn’t create the Internet) With RFID, we’re talking about *potentially* giving financial institutions, government officials, and those tech savvy enough to employ on their own, the ability to track EVERY human being on the planet!!

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