Applications of Radio Frequency Identification Technology and Security Issues in Supply Chain Management

Applications of Radio Frequency Identification Technology and Security Issues in Supply Chain Management

Kamalendu Pal (City University of London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5886-7.ch013
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Supply chain management (SCM) systems provide the ability of information sharing and interpretation of contextual information to businesses and help their day-to-day operations. This chapter presents an introduction to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and its applications in SCM. The chapter also describes the technical basics of RFID systems and examines several industry-specific applications of this technology to SCM to provide crucial implementation reviews. Next, the chapter emphasizes many inherent vulnerabilities of this pervasive computing technology in the context of security and privacy. This chapter presents a classification mechanism for risks that RFID networks come across by describing a categorization of RFID attacks, describing their main characteristics, and discussing possible countermeasures. The chapter aims to classify the existing weakness of RFID communication so that an appropriate understanding of RFID attacks can be realised, and subsequently, more effective procedures can be deployed to combat these attacks.
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The world is witnessing the tremendous influence of wireless communication technology on the working practice of global supply chain industries. Modern wireless telecommunication is heavily influenced by three world famous scientists. They are James Clerk Maxwell (Mahon, 2004), Jagadish Chandra Bose (Sarkar et al., 2006), and Tim Berners-Lee (Berners-Lee, 2000). James Clerk Maxwell provided the theoretical foundation of electromagnetic wave propagation; Jagadish Chandra Bose showed to his colleagues the transmission of millimeter waves by transmitting this new type of waves in Presidency College (Calcutta, India) laboratory, and Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland). Their inspirational research works are harnessing the ways of emerging type of data communication infrastructure for the global supply chain industries.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and its networks are an emerging type of network that is poised to play an important role in this new wave of wireless communication. This represents an advancement in information and communication technology (ICT) and innovation connecting objects and devices through data communication networks (e.g. Internet, Intranet, Electronic Product Code – global EPC network). The network of objects (e.g. devices, vehicles, machines, containers), embedded with sensors and software has the potential to collect and communicate data over a computer network. RFID technologies thus facilitate “objects” to be identified, located, sensed, and controlled via the industry-specific global platforms. It is viewed as a progression of ICT (e.g. computers, enterprise resource planning – ERP software systems, bar code technology, intelligent data analytics, electronic mail, fax, and phone) applications that are helpful to capture and share data in a network of organizations on a real-time basis. This “digital infrastructure” of objects tracking via the computer networks generate added capabilities to its business operation. In this way, RFID systems technological capabilities may differ from previous ICT capabilities due to their ubiquity, intelligence, and autonomy.

Legacy-based conventional ICT software systems help to monitor supply chain functions such as purchasing, transportation, storage, distribution, sales and returns. With many other smart devices recently joined the list under the newly formed intelligent RFID solution umbrella of technologies, the potential to address the information capture and exchange in real-time has multiplied. Although the advances in RFID technology-based applications in the form of the sensor is expected to revolutionize retail sector (Kahlert, Constantinides, & de Varies, 2017), its acceptance and potential to integrate supply chain processes is largely under development both for theoretical and practical implications.

Although there have been several studies that have investigated the ICT-enabled supply chain process integration in improving the performance (Li et al., 2009) (Qrunfleh & Tarafdar, 2014) (Rai, Patnayakuni, & Seth, 2006) (Vanpoucke et al., 2017), few review works are presented to empirically assess the effect of emerging RFID technology adoption on supply chain integration (Pal, 2019a). Supply chain integration includes both inter- and intra-organizational integration across the entire supply chain through a collaborative mechanism (Alfalla-Luque, Medina-Lopez & Dey, 2013), that can generate greater customer value by offering superior services (Christopher & Towill, 2011). In a scenario of network-based competition, the strength of a supply chain is determined by how effective the flow of goods and services is, information exchange, and funds flow (Rai et al., 2006). RFID technology is perceived to strengthen the supply chain integration by connecting the objects through the Internet (Pin, Liu, Zhou, & Wang, 2011) (Tu, 2018). Adoption and use of RFID technology help organization building its capability. From an organizational capability theory perspective, RFID technology is likely to enhance the capability to integrate the suppliers, customers, and inter-organizational logistics processes.

RFID technology bridges the gap between the physical and digital world by synchronizing the information flow with the physical flow for greater supply chain integration (Ping et al., 2011). RFID capability is defined as additional capabilities gained by supply chains with everyday objects being embedded with technology that provides identifying, sensing, networking and processing capabilities to communicate with other devices and services over the Internet (Whitmore, Agarwal, & Da Xu, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

RFID: Radio frequency identification. Describes a broad spectrum of devices and technologies and is used to refer both to individual tags and overall systems.

EPC: Electronic Product Code. A low-cost RFID tag designed for consumer products as a replacement for the UPC (Universal Product Code).

Skimming: An attack where an adversary wirelessly reads data from an RFID tag that enables forgery or cloning.

Active Tag: A tag with its battery that can initiate communications.

Tag: An RFID transponder, typically consisting of an RF coupling element and a microchip that carries identifying data. Tag functionality may range from simple identification to being able to form ad hoc networks.

Reader: An RFID transceiver, providing real and possible write access to RFID tags.

Passive Tag: A tag with no on-board power source that harvests its energy from a reader-provided RF signal.

RF: Radio frequency.

EAS: Electronic Article Surveillance. A radiofrequency device that announces its presence but contains no unique identifying data. EAS tags are frequently attached to books or compact discs.

Auto-ID: Automatic Identification (Auto-ID) systems automatically identify physical objects through optical, electromagnetic, or chemical means.

Supply Chain Management: A supply chain consists of a network of key business processes and facilities, involving end-users and suppliers that provide products, services, and information. In this chain management, improving the efficiency of the overall chain is an influential factor; and it needs at least four important strategic issues to be considered: supply chain network design, capacity planning, risk assessment and management, and performances monitoring and measurement. The coordination of these huge business processes and their performance improvement are the main objectives of a supply chain management system.

LF: Low Frequency; 120-140 kHz.

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