Funky and far-fetched RFID use cases

October 3, 2007 at 11:41 am | Posted in Entertaining, RFID | Leave a comment

The following are some of my favorite stretches of the imagination. They strain credibility… but they are real! People are really using RFID in these ways.

1. Preventing toilet leaks and overflows. AquaOne made me laugh with their Fish Tank idea, but are they really using RFID to prevent floods?  Yep. The AquaOne H2ORB doesn’t use radio frequency identification to identify or track objects, but it does use RF transmissions between various sensors to make a ‘smart’ toilet that shuts itself down before it can overflow, and reports leaks. Why is it RFID? They aren’t really identifying anything, true, but they are using RFID tags in there to allow devices to communicate with each other wirelessly and cheaply.

2. Getting Into Nightclubs. Barcelona’s Baja Beach Club is actually implanting customers with RFID tags under their skin.  The tags allow access to the club, and also serve as a debit card! Since many of Baja Beach Club’s customers wear only bathing suits, this eliminates the awkwardness of carrying their wallets in their shoes. This is 100% true. In Europe RFID adoption is far ahead of us here in the US.

3. Timing Athletic Events. RFID transponders are being used as timing systems in major sporting events all over the world, including the Boston Marathon. The price of RFID has dropped enough that even smaller, local 5k’s are  now on board. I know this to be a true RFID use case from personal experience. I ran in East Lansing’s “Race for the Place” this June, and wore an RFID tag on my shoelace. An RFID antennae in a mat clocked the exact time I began the race, and one at the finish line reported my precise exit from the course. I could see how this could be very  handy in the event of a close finish. Maybe racehorses’ hooves could be next? RFID-enabled horseshoes?

3. Preventing counterfeit Viagra and wheels of cheese. See, cheesemakers in Italy were having trouble with other cheesemakers taking shortcuts and producing inferior counterfeit cheese. While the idea of black market cheese may sound ridiculous to us, consider this: just one wheel of the real aged parmesan cheese can be worth several hundred dollars. It’s amazing what people will do to make a dishonest dollar. Confronting the problem head-on,  a cooperative of cheesemakers in northern Italy successfully introduced RFID chips into their operation, which produces and handles several hundred thousand wheels of parmesan each year. The RFID device is inserted just under the end-wrap of the cheese wheel, and stays there through repeated aging cycles in climate-controlled warehouses for six to 36 months, and through the multi-step grading process and distribution. This generates a data trail which can be used to authenticate the cheese. Pfizer is doing the same thing with the oft-ripped-off Viagra.

4. I can’t golf. Can RFID help me? Yes. Well, sort of. RFID can  help you find your ball, if it has an RFID tag, and if it hasn’t gone into a water hazard. (Water reduces RF signals and renders them unpredictable.) These golf balls really do exist; they have RFID tags inside, and the golfer carries a reader along with the clubs in the golf bag. This probably won’t make my golf swing any better, but I suppose it could save me a lot of time looking for my balls in the rough.

5. RFID Gambling. You can absolutely put RFID tags in casino chips. This allows the casino to track unique betting habits of each player. The chips not only keep track of high rollers and their spending patterns, they make it even harder for thieves to counterfeit chips or steal them from other players. All of this technology is used, of course, to stack more odds in the house’s favor.

6. Can RFID track my bees please? Not the individual bees, but their hives, sure! While I don’t particularly like bees, they are important, and a shortage of hives in the US has taken its toll on industries that depend on bees’ pollination. Almond growers, for instance, need the bees to pollinate their almond flowers. What this results in is the theft of bee hives, something that could cost beekeepers their very livelihood. Each bee hive is worth hundreds of dollars, which is why their owners are now tracking them with RFID tags.


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