MSNBC news reports that Kestrel Wireless is still in talks with Hollywood studios and expect to announce deals this summer.Kestrel Wireless’s ‘Radio Frequency Activation’ or RFA for short is set to protect optical media such as DVD’s, audio CD’s and video games from theft both in store and in transit.

The principle is pretty simple: a tiny UHF RFID chip controls a digital shutter which covers the optical media’s surface.  If the surface is darkened then the media is rendered useless as the optical drive cannot read data stored on the disc.  The chip and shutter are incorporated in the optical disc during manufacture; the disc’s are shipped in a dormant state and only enabled at the point of sale.  Working on the principle that people don’t steal things that have no value this would mean there is no need for the awkward to remove film packaging, alarm tags or secured glass display cabinets.  It’s also predicted that this technology could be used to protect electrical and electronic items in much the same way with a UHF RFID tag used internally to enable/disable the device.

In the case of optical media I’m not sure how effective this would be—while the protocol used to activate the disc is said to be encrypted it may not prevent cruder methods of circumvention.  If an electrical charge is required to clear the shutter layer then could it be activated by other means?  Failing that could this layer simply be ground off of the discs using a rotary scratch remover?  The protective film is said to be 1/50th the thickness of a human hair.  What happens to this layer if it’s scratched/damaged?

A full description of how Kestrel Wireless’ technology is likely to be introduced in to the retail supply chain can be found in the RFID Journal.