Imagining the Grocery Store Afresh

January 16, 2008 at 8:56 am | Posted in News, RFID | Leave a comment

I really don’t have much time for the grocery store. I particularly don’t have time to go through their weekly ads, pick up coupons from the paper, and figure out where the best buys are to help stretch the family budget. I’m kind of excited, therefore, to see ShopRite’s RFID project with Microsoft.

The companies have combined forces to create a smart shopping cart. When the cart will display advertisements and discounts based upon location, which it will sense using an onboard RFID reader. So, if you push the cart into the detergent area, the cart will inform you that Tide is 2 for the price of 1 today.

The smart cart idea isn’t a new one, really. Dynamic is working on one of these for one of our clients right now, although it will be used for marketing research, rather than customer service or sales.

Microsoft and ShopRite are funding the project with advertising, which seems to be a fairly common way to fund the transfer of information nowadays. I haven’t decided what I think about that, because I am sure ShopRite could get ROI on their RFID investment in many other ways. Still, this is a step in the right direction.

My ideal grocery shopping experience:

I walk in, take what I want from the shelf, and walk out the door. No checkout lines, no wondering if the expiration date is okay, no need to get my debit card out of my purse. I walk past an RFID reader carrying the things I want, and my total purchase is automatically deducted from my checking account. That would be perfect!


Cool Video from ZDNet

January 8, 2008 at 10:16 am | Posted in News, RFID | Leave a comment

This is a video of and interview with the CIO of PG&E, one of the nation’s largest power companies. She mentions how they plan to  use RFID to make their systems more intelligent: 

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. 🙂

Near Field RFID testing in the Tube

December 12, 2007 at 8:30 am | Posted in RFID | Leave a comment

London’s public transportation system is one of the busiest in Europe, and all of the timetables and maps are still provided entirely on paper. This month, however, one thousand riders are testing the new VORTRIX system at the Blackfriars station. Using a phone equipped with an RF reader, passengers get information from ‘smart posters’ containing RFID tags, and located throughout the station. A custom application uses the phone’s web browser to display exactly what trains, busses, and transfers to take in order to reach the right destination. If you don’t enter a destination, it assumes you are from out of town, and suggests attractions and activities you can visit. If the test is a success, they plan to roll out to other stations, and then to integrate an RFID-based system so that passengers can pay for their fare by waving their phone.

Near field RFID is simply a different type of transmission, operating in the unregulated RF band of 13.56MHz commonly used for scientific instruments and medical devices. Near field RF devices have a much shorter range than the more ordinary RFID chips. The maximum distance a near-field device can communicate is about 8 inches. 

Great Disaster Response Solution, Texas!

December 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Posted in RFID | 1 Comment

This is a biased blog entry, of course. I love the idea of using RFID to track disaster evacuees. Dynamic created a publication for public health officials this fall informing them of ways RFID could help with disaster preparedness and response. So many people are afraid of RFID; I am pleased to point to yet another example of RFID harmlessly making society a better place.

If you haven’t heard, Texas is going to be issuing wristbands with both barcodes and RFID tags to evacuees following a disaster. Readers on the evacuation vehicles will gather data as people enter and exit the vehicles. GPS devices on the busses will report realtime positions for each bus, and therefore all the tagged people within that bus will be tracked. The goal of the system is to help reunite families who have been separated by a disaster much more quickly, and to provide real-time location data in case loved ones cannot be immediately reunited. This should greatly relieve the distress which follows a disaster when families struggle to find one another.

The second reason I like the Texas solution is the clever way they are combining technologies. Using the bus as a container for multiple tags, and tracking a single GPS location for all the tags in the container is a great cost-saving idea, and one with a long-proven track record in the RFID world. Using container-level tracking is an old standby, and a very effective one.

Likewise, incorporating both barcodes and RFID tags in the wristbands is pretty smart, since it means that the wristband can  be read by whatever type of reader is available. This is, after all, a statewide system. There are clear benefits for using RFID in heavily populated areas, where benefits will outweigh implementation costs. Meanwhile the 20 inhabitants of Podunkville, Texas probably won’t need RFID readers for their designated evacuation bus, since it would only take a few minutes to scan everyone’s bar code by hand. Even so, this means Podunkville evacuees can be traced through the same system as their friends in urban Houston. Nice.

RFID in your own hands

November 27, 2007 at 9:36 am | Posted in News, RFID | Leave a comment

Samsung has announced a very cool RFID reader consumers can use inside a mobile device! This is what I’ve been waiting for; something that might someday make shopping in a store easier. The reason I shop online is that I want specifications and comparisons at my fingertips, and I don’t want to have to ask a pushy salesperson for information. I hope that in the future I’ll be able to pull data from objects’ RFID tags before making a purchase. I realize that’s a long way off, but a girl can hope!

“We are enabling anytime, anywhere mobile access to information,” said Dr. Chilhee Chung, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics’ System LSI division, in a press release. “RFID chip reader systems allow consumers to pull context-specific information into their mobile devices while on the go. Our mobile RFID single-chip technology is an important step in the evolution of ubiquitous computing environments.”

Really Tiny Chip

October 31, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Posted in News, RFID | Leave a comment

Teeny RFID Chip

No, it’s not a tick or a freckle. It’s the smallest RFID chip on record. It’s made by Hitachi, and measures 0.15 x 0.15 millimeters in size and 7.5 micrometers thick.  It can store enough data for a 38-digit number. It’s pretty cool; hopefully it doesn’t blow away in a stiff breeze, though. I’m betting Hitachi spent a bit of money on this one.

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?

The History of RFID

October 17, 2007 at 2:34 pm | Posted in RFID | Leave a comment

I know it seems newfangled, but RFID technology is really quite old. The first use of RFID according to most sources was in World War II. Some credit the invention to the German Luftwaffe, who used actual plane maneuvers to change the way radio waves were transmitted in order to identify friend or foe. The British, however, refined the idea by building an active transmitter about the size of a suitcase and bolting it to the plane. They sent signals from ground towers to activate the transmitters, and could therefore identify friendly planes.

Continue Reading The History of RFID…

Oo, la la, mon cheres…

October 16, 2007 at 8:27 am | Posted in News, RFID | Leave a comment

The French government has opened an RFID center!  Europe is pretty far ahead of the US in terms of RFID adoption among large enterprises; but France’s new RFID center is intenteded to help small and mid-sized businesses integrate the technology into their systems. Read more!

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