July 13, 2000
In the wake of the Los Alamos hard drive mishap, one wonders how one of
this nation's most purportedly secure and sophisticated technological
labs could "misplace" some hard drives containing nuclear secrets. Given
the fact that we are humans, let's say that we decide to lower our expectations
of security enough to expect the fact that such mishaps are bound to occur.
How do we recover and ensure that these sorts of errors will not lead
to devastating results?
It's year 2000, and folks cannot get out of their public libraries if
they haven't checked a book or video out through proper procedures. Getting
out the front door of the Gap, Inc. with an unpaid for pair of khakis
sets off alarms. We can track dolphin migration patterns with under-water
electronic surveillance devices.
the MSCPA Animal Shelter in Methuen, Massachusetts, the first thing they
do when a new dog is brought in is scan it for a microchip in its neck
- the idea is that anyone who microchips their pet probably wants it back
(in the event that it is lost and then found). The Methuen shelter has
been scanning dogs for microchips for a couple years now. As of June 19th,
over 30,000 pets have been reunited with their owners through microchipping.
what about those hard drives at Los Alamos?
it possible that we are taking better care of our pets, khakis, wildlife,
and Harry Potter books than we are of our nuclear secrets and hard drives?
In preparation for our next "Oops, we lost some hard drives," attaching
smart labels to our critical assets just might be a good thing to do.
A wafer type of smart label.
A roll of smart labels.
labels contain an integrated circuit (IC) that can be programmed with
detailed information, such as origin, location, owner and other information.
Since smart labels use radio frequencies, they do not require a direct
line of sight to be triggered. As well, it is possible to put smart labels
in obscure places to prevent their removal. Smart labels can be embedded
in plastic. The smart label that is used on dogs is about the size of
a piece of rice and is injected with a syringe under the skin in their
wafer smart labels are so thin that they can be embedded in paper or foil,
and are so flexible that they can be wrapped around a pencil, and still
transmit. Smart label wafers can be reduced to 10-15 micrometers, compared
to a piece of paper, which is 80 micrometers thick.
labels are part of a nascent market that will be experiencing tremendous
growth rates. Germany and the Netherlands are leading the way with smart
labels, and by 2004, the European market will reach $4.5 million. Philips
Semi-conductors based in Eindhoven is one of the leaders in smart label
development. Berlin University for Technology (TU Berlin) is another smart
is possible to associate a smart label with an asset owner. The asset
owner could have a smart card that worked in conjunction with a smart
label. If the object left a building perimeter without being accompanied
by the smart card owner, alarms could go off, just like when you try to
walk out of the Gap without paying for khakis.
In New Mexico alone, where Los Alamos is located, 382 lost pets have been
returned to their owners since the smart label codes were entered in the
Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) database. How many hard drives with nuclear
secrets on them have been enrolled in a smart label database?
else can you use smart labels for? The possibilities are endless:
- Pet tracking
and authentication cards
label vendors will make sure they get on the GSA
schedule in order to get in the door as a Federal Agency customer.