Thursday, 30 June 2011

Interview @ iCentre Part 2


Salam Anak IT.
Image taken from BEDB
It's been a long time since Anak IT's previous interview "iCentre Part1" and today we continue with "iCentre Part2". I met Kumar from John Harith (iCentre incubatee) last Tuesday and asked if he would be available today for a short and informal interview on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and yes I managed to interview him this afternoon. iCentre is located in Kg. Anggerek Desa next to Knowledge Hub (K-Hub).
Just a little info of John Harith:
"John Harith Computer was formed during the Y2K era with the aim to streamline and achieve effective IT solutions to offer the corporate community flexible yet innovative solutions that address their needs for full visibility of their business operations. Our solutions are designed with the insight of future needs for expansion and to maximize business returns.
Most database solutions required a mixture of stored items to be treated in a single predefined data format. Cost of customizing work process and/or system upgrade is high and with limited flexibility. Difficulties with third parties systems integration"



In my opinion, they currently hold the "RFID icon" in Brunei Darussalam. You may check them out here.
Kumar from John Harith Computer @ iCentre
The interview session:
Zulfadly: The first question is, "What is RFID?" hehe..
Kumar: Oh, RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification.. So basically it is extracting information from electronic tags which actually relay information when the RF (Radio Frequency) energy encompasses.. As long as the tags are in field, they transmit the information.. There are few types depending on what application that you are actually planning to use it for..
Zulfadly: Last time people asked me how to get these RFID tags and also RFID readers because they feel that its really hard for them to find it in the market..
Kumar: Actually there are bundles of providers in the market itself primarily in Asia there are a lot of providers especially in Taiwan and China..
Zulfadly: That's the problem especially for ITB's final year students, if they want to buy devices for their projects, they need to buy in Brunei with valid receipts or else they would not be eligible to claim the money they used for buying the devices in the end of the year..
Kumar: Ohh.. But you can still get the official invoice issued by the manufacturer you purchased from.. But if thats the case then you can always approach John Harith.. You can approach an established local company because they can do the procurement on your behalf.. But they will still go on the net and do the purchase and then they will issue the invoice over to you.. Let's say, you have any friends who have their own company, just use them and make a purchase.. Alright? ;) and basically you can get the hardware from them.. In term of suppliers, there is quite a lot of suppliers out there for both RFID tags and RFID readers.. It's all over Asia Pasific especially for RFID tags even readers such as the one we use here, eventhough the design is done in US but the assembly is actually done in China.. So you can get most of the components that you require to build an RFID system locally..
Zulfadly: I know there are a lot of RFID types available and so in term of programming, when they want to build their own RFID system, how do they know which type of RFID they will be going to use?
Kumar: It is very important first and formost to understand what does it require to manage and run RFID project.. There are sequences to be followed.. Through AiTI, John Harith conducts one day training so for students who are interested and planning to embark on RFID project, come and attend since it is fully sponsored by AiTI.. During the training, we teach you what you need to think about how do you start building the project because application actually comes at the latest stage in System Development Life Cycle (SDLC).. Look at a business problem first.. What are you trying to solve and what are you going to create from it.. Once you already done reviewing how are you going to solve and to create new solution for that, only then you go scout and see what frequency will be suitable for that application.. Suitability of what frequency will depend on where the tag is attached to.. There are a lot of physics consideration that you need to take into mind first.. Once you are done with that, you have nailed down the frequency then you have already isolated what type of tag you want to use.. So it can be low frequency, high frequency, ultra-high, microwave or super-high.. From there, you find the corresponding reader.. Thus, you work hand in hand.. Once you have determine that, then only you actually start thinking about the software layer.. When you think about software, there are 3 approaches you can normally take.. If it's just a simple desktop solution that you are trying to showcase then probably you can code it yourself so all you need is the RFID reader manufacturer's drivers and their API (Application Program Interface) documentation or sometimes they may have higher level DLL or Dot Net assembly.. Or they might have samples in Java, depending on what programming platform that you want to use.. You need to investigate the reader as well with the manufacturer, what are programming platform the reader supports.. Then you start developing the application to be able to read the tags from the reader itself then you do your business logic in your application to provide information and the rest.. As you can see, the application part is right at the back.. The initial cycle has to begin with identifying the issue and the problem first, then you go from there.. Ok? =)
Zulfadly: Ok =) and also, in you opinion, how is the market of RFID in our country?
Kumar: In Brunei itself, its still in a very early stage.. People are just starting to appreciate what the technology is capable of doing.. So far through AiTI, we have been able to train almost 80 local Bruneians which comprise of industries, government agencies or even individual who are keen to see what is possible.. So we still see another few years down the road where you really start seeing businesses and government starting to put the real RFID systems into deployment.. There are still a lot of skepticism about the technology.. The first part any inception of technology is education so people need to understand and need to have an opportunity to play with the technology.. That's why AiTI Smart Gallery was created.. You actually get to see the RFID system at work, everything from passive technology including active as well under one showcase.. It's already up and running.. You can always come and visit anytime =)
Zulfadly: Another question is, mmm maybe on the security issue?
Kumar: Security issue is always a concern with any technology.. With RFID, there is a security concern on duplication of the RFID tag.. Cloning a tag is possible, not to say it's impossible but you need to understand whether it is justified for that person to clone the tag of what it is attached to.. For example, there is a tag attached to a shampoo or some low cost item, it wouldn't be worth trying to clone it because the process itself is difficult.. But on the other hand, the information given by the tag gives identification and so what you can do is to encrypt the information where the decryption engine still lies on the software end so you need two parts of the puzzle.. There was also some talk about 2 years ago that they wanted to input PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) as part of the RFID tag's chip itself so it gives an additional security, a hardware-base security on the tag itself.. If that comes about then you have less issue worrying about the problem.. But we still do need the back-end system in order to make use the encrypted information on the tag else it would be just a bunch of random numbers which has no meaning.. Just like your IC number, if I just look at your IC number, I wouldn't know if its even yours..
Zulfadly: That's true and people also concern when it is being used for Access Control..
Kumar: Access Control.. If you actually took the person's card then, ya.. You will be granted access.. That is why, when you do Access Control system, it is coupled with CCTV so if there was an access and something have happened, the CCTV would catch that.. So that's an additional verification.. In most places, you also do double authentication.. That means I use RFID and I also require to provide biometric information..
Zulfadly: That's also multi-factor authentication right?
Kumar: Yes. Multi-factor authentication.. So that would make it more secure lah ;) hehe apa lagi?
Zulfadly: Hmmm.. That's all, I think? Hahaha
Kumar: Hehehe anytime you got any other questions, just drop me an email =)
Zulfadly: Hehe thank you for your time Kumar :)
Kumar: No problem ;)
The interview was going on about 20 minutes and there are some points I did not include in this article but insyaAllah the information given above is good enough for you to understand what RFID is all about =) If you still have any doubts on RFID, you may contact me or directly approach Kumar in iCentre ;) oh, and don't forget to enroll the one day RFID training as well! Approach AiTI for that and it is a first-come-first-serve basis so be quick =)
I guess that is all for today and I would like to thank and appreciate Kumar from John Harith once more for his precious time spent on the interview =) Thank you everyone for your support!
Sekian, wassalam..
Reported by:
Zulfadly Ismail