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Pay by mobile and RFID

Reduce shoplifting and ease payment
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(+3, -2)
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I haven't posted this before because it's one of those ideas which seems to belong in the "bleedin' obvious" category, RFID tags are overused on here and there must be a flaw i can't see.


Most people have mobiles which they carry on their person most of the time. These mobiles are either pay as you go or have contracts (or are SIM only, which i don't understand). Products on sale in shops can be provided with RFID tags and there are barriers preventing shoplifting which operate alarms. This could be modified to operate barriers - this used to be done in a library i frequented.

Put these ideas together and - the 'phone can be identified as to user and location, is associated with credit in one way or another and the products can be identified by walking through an appropriate barrier, which can be secured to prevent exit without payment in the case of the absence of a mobile 'phone.

This is how i envisage it working:

Each product on sale in the shop has an RFID tag. If the buyer is carrying a mobile 'phone, they simply pick them up and walk out through the barrier. The barrier registers their mobile, identifies the products passing through the barrier, deactivates the tags and debits their mobile account - i understand mobiles are currently used for payment in some parts of the world. If the buyer is not carrying a mobile 'phone, they can pay at the till and the RFID tags can be deactivated there. If they walk through the barrier without a mobile and without paying, the barrier doesn't let them through - legally justifiable by citizen's arrest, i suspect.

This idea has been stewing for years. I'm sure there's a flaw because it's not done and is obvious, but can someone tell me what?

nineteenthly, Sep 01 2011

RFID could be in all cell phones by 2010 http://www.zdnet.co...ones-by-2010/315292
Missed the the date on this one [skinflaps, Sep 01 2011]

iPhone Into an RFID Reader http://gigaom.com/a...nto-an-rfid-reader/
As above [skinflaps, Sep 01 2011]

RFID tracking after purchase http://news.cnet.co...10-1069-980325.html
There is already permanent tagging. [nineteenthly, Sep 02 2011]


       //or are SIM only, which i don't understand//   

       It's a sort of halfway house between pay as you go, and full-fat contract.   

       Allow me to eplain further.   

       Pay as you go entitles you to a number, through which you can dial out and receive calls. All of that function is provided by a sim, which the user can pop into whatever phone they like. Often cheap phones will be thrown in for free when purchasing such an arrangement.   

       Traditional "full-fat" (my term) "contract" (their term) deals will often be provided where a *more expensive* phone is offered for free, or with various perks, over a contract term of (say) 24 months. The month-to-month and call costs will have been arranged to recoup the cost of the phone (and any extras thrown in) over the period of the contract.   

       Sim-only contracts will generally be rolling contracts auto-renewed each month, which will tend to offer better rates than other contracts, because they don't have to recoup the cost of a "free" phone. They are becoming more prevalent because there are now lots of perfectly decent phones floating about and people are getting wise to the loss-leading strategy that the telecoms companies are adopting to tie people into long contracts with associatedly inflated charges. They are not very different to pay-as-you go, except that the payment is deducted by direct-debit (i.e. automatically) and you don't have to keep doing it manually each month.   

       A quick analogy would be paying for domestic electricity. You can either use a meter (pay as you go), or sign up with the electric company (sim only) or, in some cases, you might do a deal with your electric company where they come and fit some expensive bit of machinery in your house on the (legally binding) understanding that you don't switch to any other supplier for a given period, and during that period, pay slightly over the odds for your electric ("normal" contract).   

       My work here is done. Carry on everyone.
zen_tom, Sep 01 2011

       Store owners could employ pickpockets to allow you to conveniently "buy" unwanted items by reverse shoplifting.   

       Also currently the barriers are a bit imprecise, walk the wrong way around the shop and whoops - you've bought everything near you (or at least whatever you were carrying at the time).
Aristotle, Sep 01 2011

       It would have to be able to distinguish your items from anyone standing nearby. I would also feel better about it if it presented you with the bill for approval before paying.   

       Reverse pickpockets could slip you copies of the RFID tags of items they want, then take the items with the originals once they are paid for. The store wouldn't notice anything wrong because the same items that were gone were paid for.
caspian, Sep 01 2011

       RFID is a extremely expensive logistical task.
skinflaps, Sep 01 2011

       nineteenthly is talking about rfid WITHOUT gator tags. They are never removed, and stay inside the clothing. Its simply registered as bought or not.
pashute, Sep 02 2011

       I can't currently provide info but the permanent attachment of RFID tags is already done.
nineteenthly, Sep 02 2011

       I chose a 'phone because it's commonly carried and associated with an account. Another possibility would be a tag in a debit card. I'm not particularly attached to it being a mobile so much as being able to pick stuff up, walk out with it and have the cost automatically debited without having to walk up to a till or a scanner or physically fork anything out.
nineteenthly, Sep 02 2011

       Not the same idea. A cash register is mentioned in that article. You don't just walk out with the stuff and have its price debited without the shop or the customer taking an extra action. The article is about keeping track of items after they're in the customer's possession.
nineteenthly, Sep 02 2011

       You know how banks like to apply lots of different fees to people's accounts? This would make it easier for stores to do the same thing. If you have to wait for your phone bill and dispute it later, and they make the bill unexpected and confusing but kind of justifiable, the store may not get enough negative feedback to make this bad behaviour unprofitable, or if it's unprofitable because of driving customers away rather than bother with disputing bills, enough feedback to know it is unprofitable.   

       In the current system a customer with a confusing bill will waste the same amount of staff time as their own, and in extreme cases can abandon the transaction having wasted that staff time. This encourages good billing behaviour.
caspian, Sep 02 2011

       I kind of like the idea of having a mobile phone use it's camera and screen to securely authenticate with the store's camera/screen combo, though admittedly it's not much more convenient than swiping a card and putting in a PIN.   

       Wifi/Bluetooth may be possible to make more secure by having a directional shielded antenna on the store's transceiver, pointing to where the customer is expected, and more shielding on the other side of the customer to limit the range. Transmitters outside the customer's expected location would have to use a very strong signal to get around the shielding unless the customer happened to be carrying an unfortunately oriented reflector, and the store could detect such strong signals.   

       I'm not sure what the WiFi security issues you mentioned are, but tunnel a secure protocol with public key crypto, keys agreed when the app was installed on the phone, and you can probably overcome most of them.   

       My shielding idea would be needed to prevent an attacker relaying the signals from one location to another, which would otherwise allow them to trick a phone into thinking it was at one of the purchase gates and paying for all the items there.
caspian, Sep 02 2011

       The system you advocate places too much trust in the consumer, that they won't just rip the little stickers off the merchandise and walk right past the manager.   

       Also to assure non-repudiation its necessary that a person enters a pin number, or offers a signature, or some other way of authenticating oneself. The system you suggest would make it easier for consumers to dispute the charges by saying their phone was stolen or some such thing.
bob, Sep 05 2011

       // just rip the little stickers off the merchandise //   

       There are ways and means. That could be done right now with the price tags, there are CCTV cameras and stronger kinds of glue, or the tags could be placed inside the item in some way, for instance within a blister pack, on the inside of a jam jar and so on.   

       The 'phone nicking problem is already present on contract 'phones and is addressed using insurance.   

       I wonder how one might go about making edible tags.
nineteenthly, Sep 06 2011

       But it would be high in essential minerals and zinc or something.
nineteenthly, Sep 06 2011


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