RFID (mis)Adventure


Our office recently relocated to a WeWork, which has an RFID card for getting onto the floor before business hours and for getting into our company's suite there. Unfortunately I already have an RFID card (my Orca card) attached to my phone, so keeping the WeWork card there was a no-go. Keeping it in my wallet is also an option, but I don't typically carry my wallet with me around the office, especially since I have a limited number of outfits that have pockets. The ideal solution for my RFID card woes would be something I could wear on my body, that didn't need to be carried and could easily be passed by the readers while I was juggling a water bottle and laptop. Something like...a bracelet! So I set out to copy my WeWork RFID onto an RFID bracelet. Long story short: I failed, I think because the super-cheap RFID reader/writer I bought was too cheap. But I wanted to blog about it anyway in an effort to write about my failures as well as my successes. For science!

The Windows VM

I started out by purchasing the following:

After spending about an hour researching Linux utilities for RFID readers/writers, I decided I should just use the software on the CD that came with the copier. It was a .exe of course, so the first order of business was spinning up a windows VM on my machine. The first snag I hit was that the CD could only be installed on 32-bit Windows, not 64-bit, so after getting my 64-bit Windows 8.1 VM setup I had to tear it down and find a vagrant box for 32-bit Windows. 'Snag' might be a strong word there, it was mostly just annoying and time consuming. This is the Vagrantfile I ended up using. Important to note that in addition to the particular Windows VM, I also needed to mount the copier device to the VM.

The Copier

With the software installed, and the correct device mounted so I could connect the copier to the Windows VM, it was time to copy RFIDs! Or so I thought. The copier beeped when I plugged it in, and successfully connected to the GUI. Yay! I put my WeWork card on it and clicked 'Read'. It turned red and made angry beeping noises. Boo. I collected a few other RFIDs I had around the house -- my Orca card, the badge from our Portland office, my passport -- and tried those as well, all without success. Maybe I was doing it wrong? The copier came with some blank RFID tags, so I put one on the copier and wrote random data to it. It beeped successfully and turned green. Sigh.

That's really all there was to it. My copier seemed to be working, but didn't have the right frequencies for the things I actually needed to read. Forgetting / losing my WeWork card continues to be a problem, so stayed tuned for other attempts at the bracelet solution or other creative solutions to the problem!