Three Cool RFID Projects to Deter Bicycle Thefts

RFID to Deter Theft2 photo

Bike theft is a huge bummer and a always-growing problem in cities where bicycles are used more and more for daily transport. Amsterdam has always had a big theft problem, and 20,000 bike were stolen last year in the city of Copenhagen. Bike sharing programs nearly all share the feature of using RFID (Radio frequency ID) in order to identify bikes and help reclaim them if they are lost or stolen. Now RFID programs outside of bike sharing are on the upswing to try to reclaim stolen bicycles as well as deter thefts, and even reduce right-turn bicycle accidents.

1. University of Portsmouth, UK WASP program

At the University a system dubbed the WASP (Wireless Asset Security Protection) embeds a yellow-and-black RFID tag on bikes registered in the program. Students when parking their bike in safe zones can use mobiles to call their location to a server. On their return, they call to check out their bike. If the bike is moved without calling and entering a pin code to check out, closed circuit cameras may then zoom in on the area. One downside: students using the system have started to forgo the check in/check out as the WASP "safe zones" have experienced far less crime and theft. Bournemouth University is another high crime area where UK police have offered students free RFID tagging (though not linked to closed circuit TVs). And Immobitag is a private company offering RFID censors for about $20 - the tags might not deter thieves but they are connected to the country's police database if your bike is recovered.

2. Oregon State University 'Bug Your Bike'

This program started five years ago and implanted 250 RFID 'bugs' on bikes students register in a special database. Now OSU's Security Services are revamping the program, have registered 120 bikes in a database that is combined with the university transportation program, and is awaiting the arrival of more of the RFID bugs. OSU is using the program as more of a stolen bike recovery program, but hopes that as more and more bike are registered it will also deter thefts. The bugs are free to students.

Only Jerks Steal Bikes photo

Start of the "Only hypocrites steal bikes" campaign in Copenhagen.

3. City of Copenhagen, RFID project

The City has sponsored one pilot project implanting some of its bike-sharing bikes with RFID chips in order to keep track of the bikes if they are lost or stolen. Now a project with the Danish Technical Institute is investigating whether a better chip can be developed that would both help find bikes after they are stolen as well as deter thefts in the inner city. In the meantime, the City Council is taking a multi-faceted approach to help deter theft - the City has launched a campaign called "Kun en hykler stjaeler cykler" (Roughly: "Only a hypocrite steals bikes") and Bring Express, a large local bike messenger service, is promoting the anti-theft campaign on their backs (or the back of their bike bags) - Bring messengers have their bikes stolen on average once every nine months! In addition, the City is still planning an RFID chip system for bike identification, and is hosting a bike lottery.

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