Contactless RFID is well established for access control for buildings; simply wave your pass near the reader and the door opens. This technology is now being rolled out in the UK and around the World for so called ‘BioMetric passports’ and credit cards because there are no physical contacts or magnetic stripe to wear out. However, it is generally not realised just how easy it is for unauthorised people to access the information on these devices without the owners even realising, warns Peratech, the leader in new materials designed for touch technology solutions.
With Chip and Pin or magnetic stripe, the owner makes a conscious decision to authorise the reading of information by physically handing over the device. Contactless RFID uses a short range wireless link from a reader to activate a chip which can then be interrogated to provide information stored on it. The problem is that readers are easily available for purchase by anyone and the security codes that protect the information have already been hacked in some cases – details have been published on several websites for some time.
“Contactless skimming can be done without the owner even being aware that it has happened,” explained David Lussey, CTO of Peratech. “Your identity and financial information could be stolen by the person sitting behind you on the bus, on the train, in a queue – even walking down the street – and you would never know that is was happening.”
Peratech has announced that it has a solution to this problem that puts the owner back in control of who accesses their information. A very thin, pressure-sensitive material which acts as a switch is embedded in the circuit and then can be laminated in the same way as current credit cards are produced. Only when the switch is squeezed by the owner will the device become active.
The switch is only possible in such a thin application because it is made from Peratech’s unique and award winning Quantum Tunnelling Composites (QTCs). At only 70 microns thick, the switch is even thinner than the chip enabling it to be easily embedded into a credit card, passport or access pass. QTC technology has no moving parts and requires no air gap between contacts and is robust enough to survive many years of switching on and off. This makes it extremely reliable and suitable for integration into the thinnest electronic designs and with industry leading operational life.
“Putting QTC switches into these devices would put the owner firmly back in control of who accesses their personal information,” concluded David Lussey.
Peratech is already in discussion with manufacturers of these devices about using QTC switches.
Chip and Pin was introduced to reduce skimming of credit cards, i.e. reading the information on the credit card and making a clone of it. However, the readers use mechanical contacts onto the chip embedded in the card and these are prone to failure hence the move to contactless cards which are now being trialled in the UK such as Oyster, Visa Wave and O2 Wallet.
QTC’s unique properties enable it to be made into pressure sensitive switches of any shape or size. QTC switches and switch matrices can be screen printed allowing for development and integration of switches that are as thin as 15 microns. QTC is also low power and interfaces can be designed with no start resistance so that without pressure, the switch draws no power and passes no current. Importantly, when pressure is applied, the resistance drops in proportion to the amount of pressure. This enables sophisticated human machine interface designs to be created that react to variations in pressure.
Peratech is the inventor and world leader in Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) technology. QTC’s are electro-active polymeric materials which enable the action of ‘touch’ to be translated into an electrical reaction, enabling a vast array of devices to incorporate very thin and highly robust ‘sensing’ of touch and pressure. Already widely used in robotics and defence, Peratech commercialised its QTC technology at the beginning of 2006 and is currently working with a number of key technology clients who are implementing QTC sensing technology within their own products.
QTC materials give enormous flexibility in the design, shape, thickness and style of a switch or pressure sensor and can be made in a range of elastomeric forms, including emulsive coatings (down to thicknesses of 10 microns), ‘bulk’ silicone or rubber and textile forms. Peratech pioneered the creation of electronic switches made from textiles as early as 2001. QTC has been recognised through numerous International awards and accolades including “Tomorrow’s World Industry Award 2002″, “Saatchi & Saatchi Innovation Award 2000″ and “European Electronics Industry Award 2004.”
QTC materials have been used by organisations such as NASA, ILC Dover, Shadow Robotics and numerous government agencies World Wide. Peratech also owns SOFTswitch the pioneering creator of textile switching and Eleksen, the world leader in touch sensitive interactive textiles for electronics interface design.
For further information, please contact Peratech Limited, Old Repeater Station, Brompton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire, DL10 7JH United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0) 1748 813 670 Fax: +44 (0) 1748 813679 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
QTC, Eleksen, Elektex and SOFTswitch are trademarks of Peratech Limited