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RFID Marchamo is on the way

Costa Rica

The National Insurance Institute (INS) has announced a plan to eliminate the annual renewal of Marchamo stickers from cars, motorcycles and public transport.

The stated objective is that the new digital sticker does not have to be changed every year, instead every 10 years.

The technology to be implemented by a RFID (Radio Frequency Identifation) chip popular for tracking packages and also found in most newer passports. Remote RFID scanners can read the information on a chip contained within the digital sticker and use it to allow or restrict services such as access to emergency traffic lanes, parking lots and toll booths.

Another expected benefit to the system will be to locate stolen vehicles. As the INS President outlined,

We have seen examples such as Mexico and Panama, where the massive implementation of these tags has helped recover stolen vehicles. From the implementation of the digital label, the vehicles will be uniquely identified by means of a chip that will send the information to a centralized computer system of the INS, which can be read remotely by remote equipment of the Traffic Police.

Rodrigo Chaves, President of the Republic stated

“Today I have the great pleasure of presenting the Marchamo Digital project, an inter-institutional country initiative that will modernize vehicle regulation and simplify services for citizens. With this, the vehicles will be uniquely identified by means of a chip that will send the information to a computer system and this information can be read by the Traffic Police teams".

Two public tenders will be carried out this year by the INS that will include the purchase of the labels and the integrating system, however it is not yet known if this digital label will come into effect this year.

“In the coming weeks, the INS will begin the administrative contracting processes, through Sicop, which will allow us to give life to this ambitious initiative. In addition, with the signing of the decree that declares the project of public interest, we are sure that we will be able to continue advancing with the support of many institutions for whom this initiative will be of great help,"said Mónica Araya, executive president of the INS.

The bidding process will open in May and the cost of each label will be ¢2000. That is in addition to the cost of the annual Marchamo.

The Minister of Finance, Nogui Acosta Jaén, also announced that the Executive Branch will present a bill to recalculate the amount of the marchamo collection for 2024.

Minister Acost stated

We are already working on the bill to change the label and with this new tax on vehicle ownership, we will have a 92% reduction in rates for the country's vehicle fleet. Only in those high-value vehicles will they have to pay a little more. We calculate that all vehicles under 12 million will see the cost of the label reduced, and the certainty that it will be reduced as the vehicle ages.

Minister of Science Innovation Technology and Telecommunications, Paula Bogantes said,

"the development of the "Digital Circulation Right" Project favors the provision of more modern and innovative services for citizens, which allow them to evolve towards smart cities in the Information and Knowledge Society. In addition, it will generate greater efficiency in collection, and will encourage institutional participation for new services, in coordination and support of the INS and the MICITT”.

Essentially this is part of the SMART city objectives being implemented around the world. Supporters consider these tech projects will serve to make everyday life much easier for both those who manage the public services and those who use them. The reality may turn out to be much different especially in places where power outages are frequesnt and cyber criminals are hacking into centralized databases on an increasingly frequent timeline.

Will traffic really speed up when a toll gate is blocked for someone who hasn't paid their marchamo or has other outstanding vehicle infractions? What happens when the main database is offline for extended maintenance or breached? What happens if the RFID chip fails? Are their fines? Will the RFID be used to track speeding drivers or restrict days one can travel?

While the objectives are worthy of consideration, the overreliance on electronic technologies could result in the precisely the opposite outcome. Stay tuned.....