US 20050146435 A1
A non-reusable tamper-resistant identification device, such as may be fastened around a limb of a user. A Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) circuit is disposed in a band of material, such as is suitable for use as a wristband. The RFID circuit comprises an antenna and a transponder, disposed adjacent the antenna and cooperating therewith for emitting and receiving a wireless signal. An electrically conductive loop forms at least a portion of a connection between the antenna and the transponder. In addition, the electrically conductive loop forms a continuous conductive path along substantially the entire length of the band. The conductive loop is preferably frangible and easily broken in response to an attempt to remove the band from the wearer's limb.
1. An identification apparatus comprising:
a band of material;
a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) circuit disposed in the band, the RFID circuit comprising:
an antenna; and
a transponder chip, disposed adjacent to the antenna and cooperating therewith for emitting and receiving a wireless signal; and
an electrically conductive loop directly connected to the antenna, the electrically conductive loop forming an electrically conductive continuous path along substantially the entire length of the band.
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21. An identification apparatus comprising:
a band of material;
a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) circuit disposed in the band, the RFID circuit comprising:
an antenna; and
a transponder chip, cooperating therewith for emitting and receiving a wireless signal; and
an electrically conductive loop directly connected to the antenna, the combination of the electrically conductive loop and the antenna spanning substantially the entire length of the band.
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This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/400,049, filed Mar. 26, 2003. The entire teachings of the above application are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention deals with a non-reusable identification device for attachment to a body part or to an article of apparel of a wearer and that prevents the wearer from being able to re-use the device once it has been separated from the body part or article of apparel.
Disposable bracelets have been used for such things as identification, purchasing goods, and age verification for a number of years. For example, disposable radio-frequency identification (RFID) bracelets are used in water parks and theme parks to quickly and uniquely identify patrons. Unique identification of patrons can be used to control access to restricted areas or limit access to certain rides or attractions. For example, a patron of legal drinking age could purchase a bracelet that indicates that the patron is of legal age and grants the patron access to restricted areas such as beer sales areas. RFID bracelets issued to minors would lack the identification codes that would permit their wearers from gaining access to such areas. As another example, children under a certain age could be issued bracelets with codes that prevent them from gaining access to rides or amusements that are unsafe or otherwise inappropriate for young children. Such bracelets can also be used to locate the wearer, so that lost children can be easily located or so children can be prevented from leaving the amusement park unless accompanied by an authorized adult.
RFID bracelets can be used to allow the purchase of items without the exchange of currency or need for a credit/debit card, or to allow secure communication and monetary exchange among patrons (for example, a parent may authorize credit of funds to a child to allow a purchase up to a preselected amount). Upon entering a park or other venue, a patron can request that the bracelet issued to the patron or the patron's family members be credited for purchases up to a preselected amount. Purchases up to the preselected amount can then be made using the bracelet instead of using cash or credit/debit cards. The bracelet could also be coded so that a wearer would be prevented from making certain purchases, or from making a single purchase above a chosen limit, so that children, for example, are encouraged to spend their allotted funds wisely.
Bracelets of the type described are most often made to be disposable, so that they are inexpensive to produce and easy to use. However, such bracelets are susceptible to misuse and unauthorized use. Some bracelets are easy to remove, yet still function after removal. A bracelet that still functions after it has been removed provides the opportunity for patrons to exchange bracelets. This could provide patrons with the opportunity to give access to a restricted area to an unauthorized patron. A patron with an “adult” bracelet that would allow access to beer sales, for example, could remove and give or sell that bracelet to a patron not of legal drinking age. As another example, a thoughtlessly discarded bracelet that still has funds credited to it could be retrieved and used by an unauthorized individual to purchase goods or services using someone else's account. A bracelet that is rendered non-functional after removal would destroy its value for transfer to another patron, and would safeguard against unauthorized use of bracelets.
A number of mechanical measures have been taken to prevent such bracelets from being transferred. Most prominent are the single-use locking button mechanism found on some plastic bracelets. An example of this approach is found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,973,600. Also known are adhesive locking mechanisms with slits that prevent the wearer from peeling the adhesive back and reattaching it. An example of that approach is found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,474,557. Those mechanisms render tampering with the locking device obvious to a visual inspection of the bracelet and, in most cases, render the bracelet unwearable after removal. However, tampering with the band portion of the bracelet is not prevented by those mechanisms, nor is the bracelet rendered otherwise inoperative if those mechanisms are tampered with. It is possible for the bracelet to be cut or torn, and reattached with a simple piece of transparent tape. To detect this sort of tampering, the person checking the bracelet would need to either make a full visual inspection of the bracelet or tug very firmly on the bracelet. This is slow, inconvenient, and impractical, especially when large numbers of people require identification. Furthermore, such a visual inspection is subject to human error, the most obvious being the failure of the bracelet checker to perform adequate inspection.
To enhance the capabilities of these bracelets, additional technologies such as bar codes and RFID have been integrated into the bracelets. The use of such technologies has made the process of identifying the bracelet wearer faster and more secure, resulting in an increased use of bracelets for identification purposes and for facilitating transactions. However, this can lead to complacency among those responsible for checking the bracelets, and has a tendency to reduce the likelihood that the person checking the bracelet wearer will perform an adequate visual or physical inspection. To date, disposable wristbands with added identification technologies have depended upon the previously described mechanical restrictions for transferability.
Special electronic bracelets that prevent transferability for ensuring that hospital patients or prisoners remain within a given proximity of their quarters are known. However, such designs are prohibitively bulky, expensive, and overly complex for use in high-volume applications with short-term use. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,471,197 and 5,374,921 disclose the use of fiber optics to ensure that the bracelet is not removed. U.S. Pat. No. 6,144,303 describes a capacitive coupling between the bracelet and the wearer's skin. When the capacitance changes, indicating bracelet removal, an alarm is tripped. The methods and devices disclosed in those patents are unnecessarily complex and prohibitively expensive for disposable use.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,973,944 and 4,980,671 describe bracelets with DC current paths that run around the bracelet and form a closed circuit when the ends of the bracelet are brought together. This method involves complications when one attempts to use it with conventional disposable bracelet designs because it requires a large metal contact area to enable size adjustment of the bracelet. It also does not necessarily solve the problem of tampering because such bracelets are designed to activate an alarm when removed, not necessarily to prevent reattachment. The metal to metal contact surfaces could be easily reattached on a limb of a different user.
The present invention encompasses an identification device comprising a band and a non-reusable tamper-resistant fastening arranged to join opposite end regions of the band to fasten it around a limb of a user. A transponder circuit is attached to the band, and is responsive to a received wireless signal. In response to the received wireless signal, the transponder emits a wireless signal representative of information pre-stored in the transponder.
In one preferred embodiment, a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) circuit is disposed in a band of material, such as is suitable for use as a wristband. The RFID circuit comprises an antenna and a transponder, disposed adjacent the antenna and cooperating therewith for emitting and receiving a wireless signal. An electrically conductive loop is connected to the antenna such that electric current must flow through the conductive loop in order for electric current to flow through the antenna. In addition, the electrically conductive loop forms a continuous conductive path along substantially the entire length of the band such that any attempt to remove the band breaks the conductive loop.
Alternatively, the antenna itself can be utilized to prevent tampering in the same manner as the electrically conductive loop.
Portions of the band of material whereon the antenna is present do not require the electrically conductive loop to be present for disabling. In other words, when the antenna itself is broken or cut, current can no longer flow through the antenna, and thus the RFID circuit can no longer serve the function of sending and receiving wireless signals. Therefore, so long as the combination of the antenna and the conductive loop span substantially the entire length of the band, the invention will work as intended.
The conductive loop and antenna are preferably frangible and easily broken in response to an attempt to remove the band from the wearer's limb. The antenna and conductive loop are preferably made of the same material to simplify manufacturing.
In one embodiment, the conductive loop is disposed so as to form part of a series electrical circuit with the antenna and the transponder. However, other arrangements are possible such that the transponder is arranged to become inoperative and disabled conductive if the loop is broken.
The antenna and transponder can be disposed on the same integrated circuit chip. In this configuration, the antenna can typically be formed as a conductive coil that encircles the transponder circuitry.
The RFID circuit is also preferably disposed at or near a first end of the band of material, with the conductive loop thus extending away from the first end.
For ease of description, the invention will be described in terms of an RFID bracelet, but it should be understood that the device of the present invention is not limited to RFID or to a bracelet but extends to any device that can be attached to a limb or other body part of a wearer, or to an article of clothing and may include a necklace, an anklet, a belt, or the like.
The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of preferred embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which like reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the different views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention.
Referring now to the drawings in detail, wherein like numerals indicate like elements throughout, there is shown in
Bracelet 10 also includes a transponder 32. Transponder 32 contains circuitry that responds to an RF interrogation signal and in response emits an RF signal representative of information pre-stored or pre-programmed into the transponder. For example, the information could include the date the bracelet is issued, the date the bracelet expires and will not longer be usable for access, the age status of the wearer, and whether the bracelet can be used for purchasing goods or services. Any other desired information, depending on the context in which the bracelet is to be used, may be pre-stored or pre-programmed in the transponder. The signal may also be used to access information stored in a database
The transponder 32 is electrically connected to and derives power, in known fashion, from a loop antenna in the form of a continuous electrically conductive loop 34 that extends from the transponder and forms an electrically conductive continuous path along substantially the entire length of the band 12 of bracelet 10. Consideration should be given to the distance between the sections of the loop antenna that form loop 34 in order to minimize inductance that can lead to possible interference with the operation of the circuit. Loop 34 is preferably, but not necessarily, made from printed conductive ink that is robust enough to withstand normal handling but fragile enough that it will be broken if a user attempts to remove the bracelet. Alternatively, loop 34 may be a thin wire such as copper wire, a thin foil, or other suitable electrically conductive material that will form an electrically continuous path but will break as a result of tampering. Forming loop 34 with frangible zones, where stresses from tampering attempts are most likely to occur, may facilitate breakage of the conductor. Of course, if the user attempts to remove the bracelet 10 with a cutting implement, the conductor forming loop 34 will also be severed as band 12 is severed.
It will be appreciated that, if the loop 34 is broken and the continuity of the electrical path defined by loop 34 is broken, transponder 32 will be rendered inoperative and the bracelet 10 rendered unusable. Preferably, although not necessarily, loop 34 runs closely around the barbed peg 20 and the locking hole 22 of locking mechanism 18 and also closely around each adjustment hole 24. This prevents a user from making a small incision in the band 12 near an adjustment hole 24 or near locking mechanism 18, and sliding the barb 20 out of the bracelet 10 without also severing loop 34. Bracelet 10 may also be fitted with an adhesive pad 36 to hold the excess band in a tight loop around the wearer's limb. Although this is not necessary for the bracelet to function, it is a necessary alternative to cutting and removing the excess bracelet, which is standard practice in many cases.
In a variation of this embodiment, the adhesive patch 44 can be made from a single adhesive. In that variation the conductor forming loop 34 must still run through or over the adhesive. The adhesive must necessarily be designed such that it will remain attached to the opposite end of the band 38 when any attempt to peel the band apart is made. That way, attempts to peel apart the adhesive will necessarily cause the conductor to break.
Once the bracelet 38 is attached by overlapping the ends 40, 42 and pressing the adhesive patch against the opposite end of the bracelet, it cannot be removed without breaking the loop 34 and thus disabling the transponder 32. If the user attempts to pull off the bracelet 38, as the user pulls the two ends 40, 42 of the bracelet 38 apart the conductor forming loop 34 and completing the electrical circuit to transponder 32 will break, rendering the bracelet 38 non-operational.
In operation, one uses the bracelet in the same manner in which conventional RFID bracelets are used. The bracelet is attached to the wrist or other body part of a user and then, when unique identification is necessary, the user must bring the bracelet within a certain distance of an RFID reader, which transmits a wireless signal. When within that distance, the transponder 32 will be powered by the wireless signal from the RFID reader and, in response, transmit to the RFID reader its own wireless signal representative of the unique information pre-stored or pre-programmed in the transponder. The reader may be linked to a microprocessor having a database of relevant information pertaining to the unique bracelet identification. If the bracelet of the present invention is used in a nightclub setting, for example, the information encoded may include: age to allow access to age-restricted areas, debit account balance for payment of food and drink, and identification of the patron's favorite drink to facilitate placing orders in loud, crowded areas. Another example of an application of the bracelet of the present invention is in a hospital setting. The RFID reader may be interfaced with a database of hospital records that would not otherwise be readily available. A physician may require, for example, family medical history records or a listing of previous medications that may have an influence on the immediate diagnosis. Such information is usually found at a patient's family doctor and is not always readily available. The database may also include a photo of the patient for positive identification and to reduce the possibility of human error.
The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit thereof and, accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.
Although two embodiments of the identification device have been described and shown in the drawings, those skilled in the art will understand how features from the two embodiments may be combined and interchanged, without departing from the scope of the invention encompassed by the appended claims.