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Secure Access to Buildings using RFID Technologies & Video Logging

Researcher: Raj Rajkumar


Secure Access to Buildings using RFID Technologies and Video Logging

Recent developments give RFID technology the power to engulf day-to-day aspects of common life. The emergence of globally standardized frequencies and protocols, coupled with the rapidly declining cost of hardware, make RFID a technology that will pervade many aspects of modern life.  It is widely accepted that current applications that work on infra-red bar codes will be completely taken over by RFID.  Similar, secure access via RFID is a much more user-friendly authentication mechanism as compared to magnetic swipe cards (e.g. as currently used at CMU). Meanwhile, digital cameras and storage systems are increasingly becoming cheaper and more sophisticated.  The goal of this proposed project is to build on our earlier effort called RFMaster with previous CyLab support to prototype a scalable tracking, logging and notification system for people and objects built using RFID, digital cameras and storage technologies. The system is aimed at enabling access to physical spaces such as buildings and rooms across campuses, corporate offices and warehouses. 

System Design

The system comprises of the following subsystems:

  • Tracking System for People and Objects: This is the primary application of our system. It enables the tracking of people and objects such that an administrator (such as the police) can get information like the last known location of a particular piece of inventory. Privacy issues are paramount; only a suitably authorized person, such as one’s secretary but not any student, can access the current location of a faculty member.  But even he/she will not be allowed to know the information at a frequency higher than a system-specified threshold.
  • Secure Access to the Building and RFID-driven video monitoring: The system allows secure access to entry/exit points and allows only authorized personnel to enter/exit those points. A video clip centered around the access event is also normally recorded and can be viewed later in case of suspected theft, or potential entry by unauthorized personnel.   It must be noted that the video camera(s) at the access point is always turned on, but the clip is (by default) stored only centered on any attempted authorization event.  Such a policy maximizes the number of clips that can be stored in the system.   However, other policies that record only if authentication fails or in the event of any suspicious activity are also possible.  An example of the latter case is when the presence of unauthorized entries are suspected.  The system can also be configured to enable recording at certain frame-rates and resolution during specified times of the day, week or year when security may be lax or people
  • Tag-Writing Utility: The system will support a GUI utility which lets the administrator write new tags for new users joining the system or for inventory items.

The overall system design is given below.  The RFID readers will include both short-range and medium-range readers, the former for tracking people and the latter for tracking objects. and will be able to handle the presence of multiple tags at the same time.  We also plan to extend this infrastructure to track people in public environments such as museums where custom information based on their location must be streamed to them.

Past Performance

Version 1.0 of RFMaster which uses only short-range RFID readers is available on the CyLab for download and use by CyLab partners.   We have also participated in CyLab partner meetings including making presentations and posters.   We envision such RFID and camera-based surveillance systems as becoming an integral part of scalable sensor networks which also measure physical variables such as temperature, pressure, light and sense events such as fire.   This latter effort is funded through other non-CyLab projects.

Requested Budget

We request a total budget that supports 1 graduate student, and $10.000 for equipment (RFID medium-range readers each of which costs about $5600 and two PCs).