Car transponder technology – did you know?

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radarWe all take technology for granted. When it comes to our electronic transponder car keys, we casually lock and unlock our vehicles without giving it a second thought. But did you know the transponder technology which secures our vehicles today has its origins in WW2?

During the war years, radar was used to warn of approaching aircraft. But while they could be detected from miles away, there was no way to tell if the aircraft was friend or foe. German pilots discovered if they rolled their planes on their return, the radio signal changed. While this was reasonably effective, it was crude.

Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, who developed the first radar systems, went on to develop an IFF (identify friend or foe) system. Transmitters were put on each British aircraft. These responded to signals from the operation rooms, thus identifying the aircraft as friendly. Today, RFID (radio frequency identification) is still based on the same system. Signals are sent to a transponder which is activated in the same way as your car.

Over the years RFID technology has been used for a multitude of purposes. This includes tracking nuclear materials, security tags in shops and it’s even used for tagging cows!

So next time you activate your remote car lock, spare a thought for the pioneers who developed this technology and saved the lives of countless people. As a former RAF engineer, I’m delighted to think my car locksmith service has such an important link with the past.

Image credit 123RF