Santa uses RFID to Sort Out Photo Problems

December 18, 2007 at 11:30 am | Posted in Entertaining, RFID | Leave a comment

Santa’s house, in case you were not aware, is located in the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, Finland, where the North Star is overhead pretty much all the time. Every year, he gets many thousands of visitors from all over the world who meet his reindeer, explore his home, and soak up the Christmas spirit.

Although they speak many languages, the Elves were having some trouble with their photography projects. People would pay for a photo with Santa Claus, but then the Elves would have a hard time locating the photo in order to print it out.

On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer, on RFID! The elves now hand each person an RFID-enabled ticket at the point of sale for the photography line. The ticket is tracked through the photo process and associated in a database with the picture file. When the guest reaches the printing area, simply dropping their ticket on the counter causes the database to recall the correct set of photo files. 🙂

Food for Thought

November 1, 2007 at 7:33 am | Posted in Entertaining | Leave a comment

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

– Anaïs Nin

Keepin’ Politicians Honest with RFID

October 25, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Posted in Entertaining, RFID | Leave a comment

I loved the story that was all over the Internet today about Mexican politician Roberto Madrazo. He tried to cheat in a marathon, and the RFID system caught him at it. Rather than installing readers only at the start and finish lines, the Berlin Marathon organizers placed read zones at every 5 km mark.He would have won his age division with his remarkably fast time, but was disqualified instead. A few days later he admitted he left the course at the 25 km mark to take the most direct route to the finish line.

I’m not a marathon runner, but doesn’t cutting down the distance sort of defeat the purpose of being a marathon runner?

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.

A Day in the D

September 7, 2007 at 9:50 am | Posted in Entertaining | Leave a comment

Yesterday afternoon a large group of us hopped a bus down to “the D” (which is Detroit, for you out-of-towners) to see the Tigers play against the White Sox. It was a great game to watch, with some drama in the eighth inning when the Sox took the lead, and lots ot cheering in the bottom of the ninth when the Tigers took it back.  Check it out!

Here are some photos from our outing.

Everyone at Comerica Park

The Dynamic Crew after the win….

  Continue Reading A Day in the D…

Electronics are not parents

August 7, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Entertaining | Leave a comment

This probably isn’t news to anyone, but researchers are telling us again that we can’t expect electronics to be as good as people where kids are concerned.

This article in Time is  specifically focused on education videos aimed at babies and toddlers, such as “Baby Einstein”, and shows that spending time in front of these videos actually slows children’s language acquisition.

My bet is that despite its interactive qualities, the PC would have similar results with tiny kids. Babies and toddlers seem to learn language by watching our faces, listening to our voices, and being touched and encouraged at the same time. It’s not just a multimedia experience; it’s a physical, emotional, and mental one combined. It makes sense that a TV set can’t duplicate that experience.

When I was eight years old, I did learn to count to ten in Spanish from a particularly memorable song on Sesame Street, as did the valedictorian of my college class. I get the feeling that for older kids, educational videos have some merit; but it seems that for tiny babies and toddlers nothing can substitute for a human being.  

Tip for iTunes

July 23, 2007 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Entertaining, Technical | Leave a comment

I really like the idea of using my home computer as a server, and accessing it from afar when needed.  One of the main reasons I’d like to do that is so I can access my media from afar. It is really a pain to have multiple copies of music and podcasts spread all over my family’s computers, laptop, and palmtop.

Today I stumbled across a very cool solution.  I think I really like the SimplifyMedia idea. Essentially, what SimplifyMedia does is stream content, and allow you to access your content and share it with selected friends. It doesn’t work with any other type of file, but you can stream music files remotely via the Internet and listen to them. It’s a legal way to share your music, because it limits the transfer to streaming only, and you are only allowed to share with 30 friends of your choice. 

They don’t have a Vista version yet, so I will have to wait before I can try it out on the monster PC at home; but I thought all you XP and Mac users might enjoy this.  It’s an especially nice way to add another dimension to your online life with far-off friends and family, as a compliment to your photo sharing, blogging, and social networking sites.

I loaded it up on my laptop with no trouble, and it seems to work fine on XP SP2. There are some rumors that the beta has conflicts with some VPN software and the occasional storage device. Keep in mind it’s still a beta release, so a little caution is probably in order. I haven’t had any problems so far, but it’s only been a couple of days.

The way SimplifyMedia pays the bills is pretty cool, actually. It’s freeware, to a certain degree. If your friends like your music, SM functions in conjunction with iTunes to sell them a download from the iTunes store. As far as I can tell, the software is free of malicious rootkits and spyware; I haven’t noticed any performance changes at all since loading it, and a few other techie bloggers concur.

Amazing gear coming!

May 30, 2007 at 7:41 am | Posted in Entertaining, News, Technical | Leave a comment

I have to admit. Microsoft has knocked my socks off this time. Their surface computing stuff looks pretty awesome.

Don’t settle for reading an article; you’ve got to see this thing in action: http://crave.cnet.com/8301-1_105-9723647-1.html 

It’s being proposed for uses on restaurant tabletops, though, which to my mind is a bit impractical. I’m thinking this will be fairly pricey, and do you really want a restaurant patron dumping a plate of spaghetti on your extremely expensive computer?

Still, kudoes to Microsoft for bringing us ever-closer to the world of Philip K. Dick.

DCC’s Picnic

May 29, 2007 at 9:11 am | Posted in Entertaining, People | Leave a comment

Last Friday DCC’s staff kicked off the weekend with a picnic at Farmington’s lovely Heritage Park. Almost everyone was there, along with their kids, and we had a great time! We lucked out with the weather, too.

Our company picnic

Lori’s Birthday!

May 17, 2007 at 10:54 am | Posted in Entertaining, People | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Lori Kasparian! We celebrated with a very tasty cake, and I’m sure everyone will be relieved to know that my photo didn’t turn out, so I won’t post it on the blog. Still, everyone at Dynamic wishes Lori the best.

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