Blocking Chips, Blocking Inks?

So far signal-blocking fabrics are mostly concerned with blocking radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, but are there other sensors on the market–particularly thin, flexible electronics products such as conductive ink.

Manufacturers of conductive ink seek to replace RFID technology, citing conductive ink as cheaper, more secure, and physically more convenient–instead of embedding chips, you just need to print the ink onto the product. They’re also an alternative to quick response (QR) codes, with the claim that they’re not only easier to use, but aesthetically more pleasing. One main producer of inks and other smart products, T+Ink, markets their conductive ink, Touchcode, as being able to put “a piece of the internet inside every printed product.”

Photo Credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via Compfight

Another company, Printcolor, lists twenty-one different conductive inks for a variety of uses–from electroCRYPT which is your basic electronically conductive ink, to holoCRYPT, which prints on holographic products. There’s even aromaCRYPT which contains “specifically developed fragrances which are permanently released from the carrier host without the need of mechanical activation.” The future is awesome.

So instead of your passports or phones having RFID chips, maybe in the future they’d simply be printed with conductive ink. Signal-blocking fabrics and products would still be needed, however, since the inks can obviously be read by scanners and skimmers. It’ll be interesting to see what these conductive inks might be used for in the future, especially if they go into more mainstream markets–such as the fashion industry–and how signal-blocking fabrics and products will adapt.

Interview Filming: Mark MacCarthy

We just wrapped up filming a quick interview with Georgetown University professor Mark MacCarthy! Dr. MacCarthy is the vice president of SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association) and one of the adjunct faculty at CCT. He has taught various courses on information privacy and security policy, internet freedom, development of electronic media, privacy and ethics, and public policy. You can check out his SIIA blog, or follow him on Twitter.

Look forward to more of our production updates, including a 10-minute sample transcript of the interview and a short film about signal-blocking fabrics. 

Why I RFIDon’t: Three Reasons Why Consumers Buy Signal-Blocking Products

Perusing various sites that market RFID-blocking products, such as OFFPocket, Das Keyboard, Amazon reviews, and even personal blogs about DIY RFID cases, there are several themes as to why consumers want to shield their personal items and devices from radio signals.

  1. Privacy is the main reason cited. This means keeping one’s information restricted to the owner, or perhaps a small group of people–but certainly not the public, or in the case of these devices, organizations who might be tracking radio signals (governments, businesses, even criminals).
  2. Security, closely coupled with privacy, is another major reason cited. Security means keeping one’s data protected from outsider individuals or organizations. While this may include keeping the data out of sight (and therefore private), it also includes various obstacles to outsiders–in the case of these fabrics, a very simple structure that blocks incoming electromagnetic waves. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll get an encrypted, signal-scrambling shield case…
  3. Convenience is another major factor, and arguably the reason these products exist (because if you wanted your devices private and secure, you could certainly turn off your phone or laptop and achieve the same effect as buying one of these products). Purchasing one of these products is the alternative to turning off the phone, removing the battery, putting it into airplane mode, or even putting the phone in the fridge.


And then there’s some other reasons people like these products — or at least why marketers think consumers like these products. Other reasons cited are the cost – an affordable price for privacy, and style – most of the products are described as “sleek” and “modern,” and even a bit “futuristic.”

Diplomatic passport

Photo Credit: adafruit via Compfight cc

Trident Gum Releases “Radio Frequency Shielding Fabric” Fashion Line

So Trident — yes, the same company that makes the gum — just released a new fashion line featuring radio frequency shielding fabric.

Trident Fashion Line

The angle on the clothes is more than just technology privacy. By branding this line as “Keep Life in Focus” – the emphasis is more on preserving your mental health, spending more time with your family and friends, finding that nice zen place where the rest of the world is all noise. Noisy technology, noisy sensors, noisy data collection trying to distract us from the world.

But wait! You know what will draw as back to a sane and happy place?

An entire dress made out of RF-blocking fabric!

Trident Fashion Line_Dress

Interesting to have an entire dress or coat made out of this fabric — sure there’s a bit of a groovy Jetson steampunk vibe going on there, but RF-shielding fabric is typically made into pockets or purses where wallets or phones can be conveniently stored. Would we be wearing RFID or RF-emitting devices on the rest of our bodies? Or maybe it’s just a bolder statement about privacy and mental health–heck, even little pockets don’t cut it anymore, we should also shield our entire selves!

Trident Fashion Line_Jacket


The exhibition, Focus: Life in Gear, just started on March 28th and runs until April 6th in Toronto. Curious to see who else will be there, and what folks think of the clothes.