RFID chips in the u-city of Songdo


Songdo International Business District (IBD) is a 35$ billion “smart and sustainable city”, also called “ubiquitous city”(1) or “u-city”. It is the result of a Public-Private Partnership between Gale International, POSCO E&C and Incheon Metropolitan City. Making Songdo a city capable of integrating high tech solutions to enhance urban life efficiency is an integral part of the city’s strategy to attract business and tourism within Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ).

Songdo’s main particularity is its reliance on RFID technology: Radio Frequency Identification. RFID tags are small integrated-circuit chips that intend to replace current bar codes. Not only these chips are already widely used by the inhabitants of Songdo, but they will also be manufactured in the city. Such technology enables inhabitants to use one single card/chip to fulfil potentially every daily activity from the consumption of goods and services to entering their homes (e.g. taking the metro, renting a bike, a book or a movie, buying groceries…). Every service is thus personalised -linked to the holder of the card (encrypted with a chip)- and every transaction is automated. As such, it would be technically possible to trace every move of a person.

How does the RFID Technology work? (3)

Generating such amounts of data can be an asset for planners, now able to analyze with better accuracy major trends unfolding in the city. In legal terms however, u-cities entail to clarify our understanding of what can be done with the private information gathered about people. What, among such high volumes of information, would/should be available to public authorities in case of legal disputes? Is the information to be stored? Anonymised?

Ex: could motorists exceeding the allowed speed be automatically ticketed without having to be pulled over by a police officer or flashed?

(1) Omnipresent, pervasive, everywhere at once

(2) http://www.koreaittimes.com/story/1658/songdo-house-rfid-rd-centers

(3) http://www.clearstreamrfid.com/overview.htm