Even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the big note recall last night, there was an image of the a new Rs 2000 currency note floating within WhatsApp groups. But everyone thought it was a hoax. It wasn’t. It was real. But there indeed was something about it that was a hoax and that little something was what people called “nano GPS”. The picture of the new currency note was accompanied by a message saying that it will be have a nano GPS, a special technology, that will allow the Rs 2000 currency to be tracked by government. All of that was rubbish.
Now, we know that the Rs 2000 note is officially real. And no, it doesn’t have the nano GPS, whatever that means. In fact, nothing like the nano GPS exists. There are various GPS chips — all phones have them — and several ways to pinpoint a location using satellites and other signals life Wi-Fi. But what the WhatsApp forwards talked of was utterly wrong and just plain nonsense. Here is what the forward said:
“The unique feature of the NGC is it doesn’t need any power source. It only acts as a signal reflector. When a Satellite sends a signal requesting location the NGC reflects back the signal from the location, giving precise location coordinates, and the serial number of the currency back to the satellite, this way every NGC embedded currency can be easily tracked and located even if it is kept 120 meters below ground level. The NGC can’t be tampered with or removed without damaging the currency note.”
Sounds plausible. It’s also plain wrong.
As noted earlier, there is nothing called nano GPS. The smallest GPS chip is apparently made by an Israeli company and even that measures around 10mm x 10mm x 3.8mm. Embedding such a chip in a bank note is possible but completely impractical, and possibly prohibitively expensive.
Also read: What the FAQ just happened! All your questions about Rs 500-1000 notes answered
But govt may track Rs 2,000
Details on this are scarce but there is a possibility that the Rs 2,000 note may have an RFID tag inside them. But even that is just a possibility. It is not a surety. A number of countries are working to embed the RFID tags in bank notes so that they can be tracked and identified in certain cases. Bank notes like Rs 2,000, due to their high-value, are perfect candidates for an RFID tag. But even with the RFID the technology is not entirely ready.
It is also expensive to embed a RFID tag, even as small as 0.4mm, something that Hitachi developed around a decade ago. The price of the technology specially become a concern when you weigh in the benefits. Although it sounds quite cool, the RFID may not offer enough of benefits in terms of tracking and identifying the notes to make it a worthwhile investment.
This is not to say that the Rs 2,000 note doesn’t have RFID. But RBI so far hasn’t confirmed anything like this. And given the facts so far, and the readiness of any technology that can be embedded inside the currency notes, it is sure looks like that the new Rs 2,000 note is just your regular currency. It has features that makes it more accessible to blind people and the design and printing style is all new. But other than that, no fancy technology. Note even RFID probably. And definitively not the nano GPS.