RFID Anti-Theft Protection

The Introduction of RFID, BLE, GPS, LoRaWAN and 5G Makes Anti-Theft Systems More Secure

13 Min
June 26, 2024
IoT Use Case: Anti-Theft Protection

What to Expect?

Due to the rising crime rate in private households, stores, and in industry, there is a growing demand for advanced article surveillance solutions. RFID-based anti-theft protection is becoming increasingly popular in this context. A Finnish wholesaler has deployed an RFID-based self-checkout solution at its unmanned stores to automate payment and prevent theft, for example. Other anti-theft solutions also use biometrics, artificial intelligence, and other IoT technologies such as BLE, GPS, LoRaWAN, and 5G.

1. Status Quo

What is Theft?

The general definition of theft is clear and distinct, and consists of two main components: First: The appropriation of another person’s personal property without that person’s consent. Second: Combined with the intent to deprive that person of access to that property. Theft is a crime and is closely related to the terms shoplifting, burglary, robbery and embezzlement. Depending on the value and type of goods stolen, theft is classified as petty or grand theft.

Theft can occur in any industry. For example, retail stores and shopping centers generally have a high risk of theft. The most commonly stolen retail goods include textiles and clothing, electronics, cosmetics and health products, household goods and tools, office supplies and food and beverages.

In automotive retail, tires, and car parts are also at risk of theft. In the hotel and restaurant industry, sauna towels and bathroom amenities are often stolen. One of the sectors most affected by data theft is healthcare.

Intellectual property theft is most prevalent in the manufacturing, automotive, pharmaceutical, entertainment and technology industries.

Other forms of theft include child theft, identity theft and intellectual property theft.

What is Anti-Theft Protection?

Theft prevention, also known as anti-theft protection, refers to security measures, strategies, and solutions used to prevent, detect, or deter theft. Anti-theft systems or merchandise security systems are usually set up. These include traditional key and lock systems, digital or cyber security measures, item monitoring, and wireless IoT solutions. AI is increasingly being integrated into anti-theft systems to help prevent theft and enable a proactive response to theft attempts. RFID access control systems can be used to prevent unauthorized access and prevent theft. An example of such a solution would be an RFID locker or an RFID padlock.

Rising theft rates in the retail sector have led to an increase in investment in electronic article surveillance systems (EAS). These systems are primarily used in retail stores to prevent shoplifting, reduce loss of goods, and to track merchandise. Such systems can also be installed in bookstores or libraries.

RFID in libraries involves equipping books with RFID tags to prevent theft. In self-service stores, theft can be reduced by using RFID-based solutions in combination with efficient self-service checkouts and payment methods. These are a few examples of protection with RFID (RFID anti-theft protection).

Cybercrime is a completely different and relatively new sector of theft that relates to digital assets. It is becoming increasingly common for personal identity data, health data, or passwords to be stolen.

Protection against cybercrime includes the anti-theft protection of financial data, personal information, intellectual property, and digital currencies, for example. Anti-theft protection measures include the use of authentication solutions such as strong passwords in combination with two-factor authentication, software updates, the use of secure Wi-Fi connections or identification technologies such as biometric data encryption, and the use of antivirus software and firewalls. Counterfeit protection or anti-counterfeiting measures, such as tamper-proofing products, are also very important to prevent the theft of intellectual property. In addition to pure theft, cybercrime also involves the manipulation of sensitive data.

Wireless IoT Technologies and Anti-Theft Protection

  • RFID

    Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can be combined with EAS systems in retail stores to prevent theft. A security tag integrated with an RFID chip triggers the alarm when passing through detection systems. This is an example of anti-theft protection with RFID.

  • Bluetooth LE

    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and tags can be used to prevent theft. BLE beacons are positioned in a defined security area. An alarm is triggered when objects equipped with BLE tags leave the read zone of the BLE beacons.

  • RTLS

    A Global Positioning System (GPS) tracker can be used to protect larger assets like vehicles from theft. Remote and real-time localization and monitoring of assets, as well as geofencing, are made possible.

  • LPWAN

    LoRaWAN-based security systems with sensors and gateways can be used to prevent theft from homes.

  • 5G / 6G

    How does 5G work for anti-theft protection? A 5G campus network can be used to prevent theft of property. 5G-enabled devices that leave defined areas trigger alarms.

Products Required to Build an Anti-Theft System

There are many different anti-theft devices and products that are suitable for different industries. The following section lists the various different devices and products available.

Electronic Article Surveillance Systems

EAS systems are made of EAS antennas and EAS merchandise security labels or tags. EAS systems use their own technologies to detect and prevent theft in stores. Typical technologies used in EAS systems are:

  1. Electromagnetic Systems (EM): Using magnetized strips in labels that are deactivated by a special magnetic field at the checkout.
  2. Acoustomagnetic Systems (AM): Using acoustomagnetic tags that can be recognized by a strong magnetic field in a specific frequency range and can also be deactivated at the checkout.
  3. Radio Frequency (RF) Systems: Using radio-based tags that operate in specific frequency ranges, typically at 8.2 MHz. RFID transponders and chips can be integrated in EAS security labels or hard tags. These are attached to store products and deactivated or removed upon purchase. EAS antennas installed at store entrances and exits trigger alarms if active RFID security labels or transponders pass through. This is an example of RFID in fashion.

Although RFID is also a form of radio-based technology, it is a technology in its own right and is more commonly used in logistics, warehousing, and for advanced retail functions (e.g. Goods labeling with RFID or RFID product tracking).

LoRaWAN Security Systems

LoRaWAN-based security systems can be set up in residential areas. LoRaWAN sensors are integrated on windows, doors, and on motion sensors. When motion is detected, or when windows and doors are opened, the LoRaWAN sensors sound an alarm. Sensor data is managed and transmitted via an installed hybrid Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN gateway. This data is then sent to a cloud or network server for processing. Security devices are activated and alerts are sent to the homeowner’s smartphone or computer via the cloud. Homeowners have a LoRaWAN keychain sensor that is used to switch the security system on or off.

5G Campus Networks

5G campus networks are installed on-site. The main components of a 5G campus network are base stations, backhaul links, a core network, radio access network (RAN) equipment, and a network management system. 5G-enabled devices that are within the network communicate with each other in real-time. Alarms from these devices can be triggered if they leave the network.

Bluetooth LE Anti-Theft Systems

The components of a Bluetooth LE anti-theft system include BLE tags or beacons, which emit unique Bluetooth signals and are attached to items or placed in monitored areas. BLE receivers, readers, or scanners detect these signals and communicate with a central control unit that processes the data to track the location of the tagged items. The system is managed through a mobile application or software interface, allowing users to monitor status and receive alerts. Together, these components create a robust solution for preventing theft and unauthorized access. Bluetooth LE systems can be set up either indoors or outdoors.

GPS Tracking Systems

GPS tracking devices, or GPS trackers are installed directly on assets. This anti-theft system is typically used for construction machines, vehicles, bicycles, boats, and large assets of high value. By using signals transmitted by GPS satellites, the GPS trackers provide real-time location information of tagged assets. This information is transmitted to a central monitoring system and made visible via a smartphone or computer. GPS can also be used to set up a geofencing surveillance area. Alerts are triggered if GPS trackers leave this defined area.

Biometric Systems

Biometric anti-theft systems are advanced security solutions that utilize unique physiological characteristics of individuals, such as fingerprints, facial features, iris patterns, or voice recognition, to grant or deny access to secured areas or assets. These systems offer a high level of security because biometric traits are difficult to duplicate or forge, providing a reliable method of identity verification, in order to prevent identity theft.

Components of a biometric anti-theft system typically include a biometric sensor or scanner, a control unit that processes and compares the biometric data against stored templates, and an access mechanism that unlocks or locks the protected area based on the verification results. Additionally, these systems often integrate with other security measures, such as surveillance cameras and alarm systems, to provide a comprehensive security solution.

Access Control Systems

Access control systems are also a measure for anti-theft protection. These systems only allow authorized personnel to access certain areas or resources. These systems comprise of electronic access cards that use magnet stripe, RFID, or NFC technology, in combination with a respective reading device. These systems are typically user friendly and easy to manage. They also enable the traceability of access activities.

Personal Identification Number (PIN) code systems or keypad PIN systems are also used for access control. These systems comprise of a keypad or input device for the keying in of the PIN, and a control panel as a central unit that determines if access should be allowed or denied. A power supply, an access mechanism, and an alarm and notification system are part of the system.

Facts & Figures

With the rise of theft incidences in all industries, more and more companies are implementing secure and digitalized security and anti-theft protection systems. According to a report by the market research platform “Gitnux”, for example, 9 out of every 10 retail businesses are victims of retail theft. In the global retail industry, close to 62 billion USD was lost due to theft in 2019. Shoplifting accounts for approximately 36.5 percent of retail inventory shrinkage. This shows that digitalization in retail is required, in order to enable full visibility of the supply chain and to track products.

With the increasing digitalization of companies and institutions, more and more data is becoming subject or vulnerable to theft and misuse. Digitalization in healthcare, for example, has welcomed new challenges in terms of security. According to the an article from the Healthcare (Basel) journal, over 2,000 data breaches was reported from 86 countries in 2019. Over 500 of these came from the healthcare industry. As a result of these data breaches, over 41 million healthcare records were exposed, stolen or illegally disclosed. This makes the healthcare industry one of the most affected industries in terms of data breaches and data theft.

The American Federal Trade Commission (FTC), received more than one million reports of identity theft in 2023. According to data gathered by the personal finance website “Finanso.se”, 56 percent of people in Europe were victims of fraud in 2018 and 2019. Identity theft accounted for one third of this percentage and was ranked as the second most-common form of fraud in Europe. The UK, Ireland, and Denmark are the three countries in Europe with the highest percentages of identity theft. This shows the importance of identification for people.

2. In Practice

Anti-theft protection solutions based on wireless IoT technologies are in use in various industries. RFID article surveillance is an example of a promising solution that is becoming increasingly important. This also includes the integration of RFID chips in clothes in the form of RFID textile labels or RFID yarn. RFID in textiles enables the traceability of all clothing and laundry items that can deter theft.

Digitalization in the automotive industry enables the implementation of anti-theft alarm systems based on mobile networks and sensors for vehicle tires to prevent tire theft. RFID in tires is used for tire identification to prevent theft. RFID chips are embedded in the tires for this purpose.

The following success stories show the benefits of anti-theft systems used in the retail industry.

Retail – Anti-Theft Protection at Promart

Finnish wholesaler Promart offers unmanned self-service stores for the construction industry. These stores, called Easymarts, are set up in shipyards or on construction sites and are equipped with an RFID solution from Turck Vilant Systems.

A construction worker can access the stores via an RFID ID card at the entrance. The customer then selects the products to buy and proceeds to the reading area. Here, the RFID security tags on the products are automatically captured by a wireless RFID reader. The purchase is automatically settled via the linked company account by the system. This way, theft is impossible.

ProMart Teaser: Autonomous Self-Service Markets with RFID
Autonomous Self-Service Markets with RFID

“Based on different user experiences from our RFID stores, I can also tell that they have minimal issues concerning loss. We believe it is because the users do not pay for the purchases from their own pockets. Billing is automatic, as their company gets invoiced for all purchases. This way, there is no element of personal gain, and forgetting to pay is impossible, as is theft.”

Jessica Säilä

Head of Marketing, Turck Vilant Systems

Logo Turck Vilant Systems

Localization – Anti-Theft Protection for Shopping Carts at Spar

In 2021, retail company Spar Austria Group set up a 5G test store in Floridsdorf, Vienna, Austria. In the Interspar store, 5G-enabled smart shopping carts communicate with a private 5G campus network that is installed at the store. The location of carts is captured at an accuracy of up to 20 centimeters as they are moved around the store.

Insights derived from the location data captured of each cart include the routes taken through the store, the length of time used, and the time taken to arrive at the checkout. Data is captured anonymously. Based on the data on the customer journey, long queues at the checkout are prevented. 5G asset tracking also helps prevent theft. An alarm is sounded once a shopping cart leaves a defined area.

5G in the Supermarket
Spar Austria Group optimizes the Customer Journey with 5G

“The starting point for the project was actually theft prevention, as we lose several hundred shopping carts every year. A shopping cart costs around 200 euros. Together with our Telekom partner A1, we launched the project in a 5G network, because 5G now allows us to locate our shopping carts with an accuracy of up to 20 centimeters.”

Andreas Kranabitl

CIO, Spar Austria Group

Spar Austria Group Logo

More Anti-Theft Protection Success Stories

3. Panorama

The Advantages of Wireless IoT-Based Anti-Theft Systems

The introduction of wireless IoT technologies such as RFID, BLE, GPS, LoRaWAN and 5G makes it possible to effectively secure anti-theft systems. These technologies allow the collection and transmission of data in real time from smart devices such as cameras and sensors. This allows both homeowners and security staff to swiftly detect and respond to potential threats. With remote monitoring and control capabilities, users can manage incidents from anywhere.

Since IoT devices are wireless, they offer flexibility in placement. IoT-enabled sensors, cameras, and alarms can be positioned for maximum coverage, for example. BLE beacons can even be placed outdoors, while LoRaWAN and GPS technologies are used to cover even wider areas. Anti-theft systems based on wireless IoT technologies are also highly scalable. Additional IoT devices and sensors can be added and integrated into the exiting system, if necessary.

Furthermore, IoT devices equipped with advanced analytics can automatically identify unusual activities, enabling proactive threat mitigation. Using software algorithms, IoT devices are also able to automate security operations. This includes access control, for example. Human intervention is made unnecessary and efficiency is improved. By connecting devices and automating processes, security systems are transformed from reactive to proactive systems.

Wireless IoT-based anti-theft systems do not only prevent theft, but also enable other applications. RFID-based systems can also be used to track permanent inventory and for product identification, and for example. RFID product tracking is often deployed in order to locate lost or stolen products, for example.

Advantages with Wireless IoT

  • Remote monitoring and control
  • Wide area coverage
  • Efficient and precise asset localization
  • Highly scalable
  • Quick and efficient alert and response

Challenges when Implementing Wireless IoT-Based Anti-Theft Systems

There are a few challenges that users must address when implementing wireless IoT-based anti-theft systems, in order to ensure reliable theft prevention and detection. Wireless IoT devices are often susceptible to signal interference from other electronic devices and physical objects. This can lead to disruptions in communications, or false alarms. RFID, for example, does not work well in environments near metal or water. A tailored solution based on the environment and needs, like on-metal RFID tags or soft tags, for example, is often required.

Wireless data transmission to and from wireless IoT devices makes systems vulnerable to unauthorized access and hacking. Encryption and regular software updates are some measures that can be used to prevent cyber attacks and to protect data. It is recommended to consult a data security company.

IoT devices used outdoors for theft prevention need to be able to withstand harsh environmental conditions. These devices should also be protected against physical manipulation.

Partners Specializing in Anti-Theft System Solutions

Outlook – Next Level Anti-Theft Protection

Emerging trends for anti-theft protection involves the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and biometric authentication technologies.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML)

AI and machine learning is an emerging trend in retail loss prevention. Through the analysis of inventory data, patterns are identified that can predict future cases of theft.

Biometric Authentication

Biometric identification technology is used to prevent identity theft, and for authentication. This includes facial recognition, as well as fingerprint identification, and iris recognition. Biometric sensors are also used to prevent vehicle theft, for example.

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