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UK Government aims to track laptop theft via ID chips

Dell, EMI and Woolworths sign up to £5.5m tagging trial

The UK Government is backing a scheme to fit tracking technology to laptops and other items in an attempt to curb theft.

Anti-theft tags will be fitted to laptops, compact discs and clothing consignments as part of a partnership initiative with major UK businesses to stamp out the illicit trade in stolen and counterfeit goods.

Last week Crime Reduction Minister John Denham announced three new partners in trials of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Woolworths, Dell, and EMI are the latest firms to sign up to this the Home Office's Chipping of Goods initiative, where consumer goods at risk from theft will be fitted with electronic tags that will information on their origin, current location and final retail destination. The scheme is been backed by £5.5 million in government funding.

The anti-theft tags are designed to disrupt the criminal networks that target consignments of goods destined for high street shops.

Under this latest initiative, RFID tags will be fitted on individual CDs produced by EMI to track their movement through the supply chain. This will help to identify whether the individual product has been stolen and whether it is genuine or counterfeit.

The project will involve EMI Distribution and its partner, e.centre; the UK e-business and supply chain standards association, Asda Stores and their distribution providers Handleman UK and systems integrators Microlise.

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), high-quality counterfeit CDs, manufactured in factories in Russia and the Ukraine and exported to Western Europe, have found their way into the UK markets, often sold amongst genuine stock delivered to small retail outlets.

Investigators from the BPI assisted law enforcement agencies throughout the UK in over 500 criminal prosecutions in 2000, to disrupt a market now worth over £20 million.

Bill Manktelow, Senior Director, European Distribution, EMI, said: "Secure unique global identification of CDs using radio frequency tagging technology will create a comprehensive asset visibility system for the phonographic industry, with the potential for other business sectors to follow."

A second project will see the Home Office teaming up with Dell and its partners, Marconi InfoChain and British Telecommunications (BT), to pilot an electronic tagging system to protect laptop computers.

The anti-theft tag will be embedded within each individual Dell LatitudeTM C610 to enable police to scan a suspected stolen computer. Any attempt to remove the chip will render the laptop unusable. Dell said the technology is meant to both deter theft and control the loss of its customers' laptop computers.

The third scheme will see RFID tags fitted by Woolworths to consignments, which include clothing, CDs and mobile phones. Merchandise will then be tracked through the supply chain from the time it is picked up in the distribution centre through to its final delivery to a store. ®

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