RFID Brings Back the Record Player with a New Twist
More than ever, this seemed to be the year that RFID became ‘invisible’, allowing people to interact with everyday objects in new ways. Across several markets and industries, the use of RFID has created more efficient processes and enabled new innovative personalized services. And here’s a new twist - bridging the gap from old to new, RFID brings back a favorite from the past, making it real again.
So, if you’re like me you had one, maybe two turntables growing up. Big clumsy things that produced sounds that some music lovers continue to prefer over today’s digitally enhanced recordings.
Now, IDEO is using RFID in its project dubbed c60 Redux to bring the turntable to the present, infusing it with modern amenities. Two RFID tags, each representing a song, are embedded into cards, about the size of a playing card. When the cards are placed onto the RFID turntable controller (containing RFID readers), a connected computer plays the designated song. You get some of the feeling of using the turntable, without the fear of scratching the record and making it skip in that same spot forever. And that’s not all.
Remember when we used to make “mixes” from vinyl recordings to tape? Well this new invention would make that easier too. The RFID readers in the turntable scan the cards clockwise, so mixes can be made by placing the cards in a certain order. You could even mix music to make your own songs.
When a DJ friend in Boston saw what this could do, she said, “Wow. That’s insane. I may be out of a job!” While it’s unlikely this invention will replace the turn tables and microphones used by the modern DJ, RFID proves again that it’s a technology that’s easy to integrate into everyday objects and versatile enough to make concepts and ideas of all kinds come to life.
It also gets us thinking about other things from our past that RFID could bring back in modern form.
When we launched our 100 Uses of RFID program earlier this year, we had an overarching goal of raising awareness of the many different types of wireless identification technologies available today. Looking beyond traditional uses of ID technologies like radio frequency identification and sensors (RFIDS), we also wanted to explore the growing number of solutions where users are naturally interacting with RFIDS and where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears into its environment.
Executing the program was an exciting challenge. Through the use of our blog, press releases, YouTube and Twitter, we intended to promote innovative yet real RFID applications each business day for 100 days. At the beginning, some called us out, wondering if we could sustain the pace we publicized. ReadWriteWeb challenged our plan “Can they keep this up 95 more times? That seems like a rough row to hoe.” Thankfully, we were able to reach our goal on target and benefited from a follow up RWW article: Looks Like There Really Are 100 Uses for RFID and mention in their Top 10 Internet of Things Developments of 2010 round-up!
The visibility favorable editorial coverage has driven isn’t the only positive outcome. This program has also led to ongoing dialog about innovative uses of RFID and sensing technology with users, prospective customers, business partners, and several industry and business media outlets.
We hope that the content generated for this program continues to be useful others. For those of you interested in keeping track or guessing about what your peers are interested in, the most popular topics of the program to date are:
Race Timing with RFID
Enhancing the Patient Experience with RFID
The Next Revolution in Wireless and Mobility
Hospital Inventory Control with UHF RFID
The Batteryless RFID Imperative in Healthcare
RFID – The New Future of Retail
Of course we couldn’t have done it alone. The ThingMagic team would like to gratefully acknowledge those who made this program possible, including our valued customers and partners for their editorial contributions, and the inspirational sources for several of the uses of RFID noted in our program, including RFID Journal, PSFK, the MIT Media Lab and many others.
And in today’s age of social media, we couldn’t have reached the audience we did without our growing community of blog subscribers and Twitter followers. A special shout out to @AetherCzar for #WirelessWednesday mentions and @ZebraTechnology, @VeryFieldsRFID, @LPP_PR and @zanderliving for the many re-tweets!
Stay tuned for future programs as we continue to blog on the many uses of RFID. If you have a unique use of RFID and/or sensor technology, let us know and we’ll consider it for a blog post or future marketing activity!
Use Your Imagination. Just Add RFID.
“If history is any indication, we should assume that any technology that is going to have a significant impact over the next 10 years is already 10 years old.”
- Bill Buxton, Sketching User Experiences
As mentioned in the first post of our 100 Uses of RFID program, over the past 10 years, we've gone from a world in which very few knew of RFID, to one in which the hype of the technology exceeded the rate of practical adoption, to today, where RFID is found in automated data collection, identification, and location systems worldwide.
By many measures, the use of RFID is growing. Early projects and pilots are delivering value and influencing a new-generation of solutions. Could the RFID market be primed to deliver the significant impact Bill Buxton references above?
"Businesses are scaling and deploying. In many different ways, RFID is moving to the next stage."
- Drew Nathanson, Director of operations, VDC Research.
When we kicked off our program 100 business days ago, we had a goal of raising awareness of the many different types of wireless ID and sensing technologies, and how they are coming together to create a new multi-scale wireless world. Over this period, we’ve discussed applications that use many types of the technology. From Active RFID to ZigBee, each offers a variety of benefits and value to its users. Beyond traditional uses of the technology, we also explored the growing number of solutions where users and consumers are naturally interacting with RFID and where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears into its environment.
Could we be experiencing the beginning of the next stage Drew Nathanson mentions above - A tipping point, where RFID is being integrated into many every day products and enabling the development of new innovative solutions that would otherwise not be available?
"RFID is the missing link between online information and the real world”
- Andrew Lippman, MIT Media Lab associate director and head, Viral Communications group
The next 10 years in the RFID market will certainly be interesting. Will we experience a layering in the RFID market similar to the layering of the PC era, the ongoing layering of the Internet, and the emerging layering of social networking platforms? Layering in each of these markets has led to huge innovation. By all accounts, RFID is quickly becoming a reliable element of network infrastructures, driving significant process change. As RFID becomes integrated into more everyday objects, expect to see a wave of innovative upstream solutions and applications. Maybe someday soon we’ll look back and wonder how we ever got through a day without a PC, without the internet, without Facebook and without RFID…
Use Number 100: Use your imagination. Just add RFID.
Stay tuned for future posts as we report on key highlights of our 100 Uses of RFID series. If you have a unique use of RFID, let us know and we’ll consider it for our next program!
Could This Mean the End of Human-Injected Hormones and Antibiotics in our Food?
Farm raised fish used to be preferred by consumers over fish caught in the wild. The belief was that we would be ingesting less mercury, often found in ocean-living fish in the form of a toxic organic compound. Then we discovered that farm raised fish, as well as other animals like chickens and cows, were being injected with hormones to make them bigger and antibiotics to fight infection so they could continue to bring in revenue. That knowledge led people to be very diligent about knowing where their food came from. Many people I know stopped buying farm raised fish in favor of the potential mercury exposure.
But RFID could solve the problem of impure food, and as RFID can, cross some other hurdles along the way.
Researchers in Thailand have explored the benefits of using RFID to track and monitor growth to improve breeding of stock, or in this case fish. King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang embedded passive RFID tags in giant prawns, tilapia and walking catfish. These species represent a significant export for the country, so it’s no wonder they would want to protect and even try to improve the broodstock. The RFID system was designed to track a fish’s growth on a monthly basis. The system comprised 10 millimeter glass transponders and handheld readers. The tags contained a serial number that identified each fish. The growth data and breed information was kept in a database. If the data showed that the fish wasn’t growing as it should be, cross-breeding could be implemented to improve the growth of the species. Sounds far more natural than injecting them with growth hormones!
This research project, funded by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, also served another purpose. Since embedding RFID tags into aquatic animals was fairly unchartered territory, the researchers used the project to help determine the best location for the tags and the least disruptive way to insert them into these small animals. They also tracked any physical affects the tags could have on them.
The project was considered a success because researchers concluded that the best place to insert the tags was in the abdomen, and the tags did not affect the growth or health of the fish. The findings were also to be used to promote the use of RFID in aquatic farm management and other food tracking industries.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you agree that using RFID to monitor growth and the resulting ‘natural’ methods of farming healthy seafood for harvest is a healthier to using hormones?
Efficiently Tracking Evidence from Collection to Storage
“The Houston Police Department has discovered evidence from thousands of cases that was improperly tagged and lost in its property room, suggesting that problems with handling evidence may go back 25 years …HPD officials said it appears that evidence from as many as 8,000 cases, from 1979 to 1991, was packed into the 280 cartons.”
Houston Chronicle, August 27, 2004
The above excerpt from a Houston Chronicle article is certainly not what you’d like to read if the evidence in questions was related to an investigation you were involved in. But hey, I watch CSI, Law & Order, Blue Bloods and other crime dramas on TV and this stuff happens. Right?
Kidding aside, keeping track of key pieces of evidence is extremely important and can sometimes mean the difference between guilty or not guilty and even life and death for some. Not only can lost evidence call into question the verdicts of trial cases, but just because the evidence is found does not necessarily mean it can be used immediately to re-open cases in question. According to the Houston Chronicle, it was expected take the HPD approximately 12 months to catalog the lost evidence it found, further delaying its use in the investigatory process.
To address these challenges, several companies are developing RFID-enabled solutions for tagging and tracking evidence as it moves through collection and on to analysis and storage. The result is an electronic record of where the evidence is, where it has been and who has accessed it.
For example, Bode Technology, one of the world's largest DNA analysis firms, has piloted an RFID system to electronically document the chain of custody of DNA evidence. Marketed as Bode-RFID, the system is designed to replace manual processes that use barcodes and handwritten paper manifests that are time consuming to prepare and open to human error and loss. The Bode-RFID solution pulls together all of the key components of a successful solution including an Avery Dennison RFID tags, printers from Zebra Technology, UHF RFID readers enclosed in industrial portals from Jamison Door, and importantly, data integration into Laboratory Information Management (LIM) systems.
By combining RFID-enabled evidence tracking with other uses of RFID like document and file tracking and weapons tracking, it seems like the criminal justice system may be ready to enter a new era – one where visibility can be extended across historically challenging departmental and operational silos.
After all, we’ve got to keep up with the CSI effect...
Will Consumer Use of NFC Drive Widespread RFID Adoption?
A number of recently published editorial pieces and analyst reports have covered the growing belief that Near Field Communications (NFC) - a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology - may deliver the next big step toward consumer adoption of RFID technology and related applications and services. What’s driving this belief? Well, primarily interest from mobile device makers (think high-volume), communications companies (think global networks) and banks (think simplified transactions). And with this combination of technology, product and financial service providers coming together, you can bet that something is brewing.
NFC for Mobile Commerce
It’s been reported that several major handset makers will begin shipping NFC-enabled smart phones beginning in 2011. With contactless payment (credit/debit card emulation) projected to be one of the primary uses of NFC in mobile devices, several banks and financial service providers are beginning to take steps to prepare their payment infrastructures. For example, Bank of America launched a retail pilot earlier this year and Visa piloted a program to allow commuters in New York to use their mobile devices to pay for train and bus fares.
Consider further, the power of your mobile phone acting as your wallet without requiring you to purchase any new products or change your behavior. That’s what Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA envisioned when they formed ISIS. They’re calling it a “mobile wallet”, positioned to replace cash, credit/debit cards, reward cards, coupons, event tickets and even bus passes. These three telcos plan to initially partner with Discover Financial Services and Barclaycard US to deliver contactless payments services.
Sounds to me like the necessary pieces of the infrastructure puzzle and some interesting applications are starting to fall into place.
The Promise of NFC
In addition to mobile commerce, other innovative applications using NFC may include interactive advertising, electronic ticketing, electronic access (cars, homes, offices, etc), and the ability for multiple NFC-enabled devices in close proximity to each other to exchange information – in a machine-to-machine (M2M) or peer-to-peer (P2P) mode. Social networks will also play a role by providing platforms for individuals to share information generated with and by their mobile devices to a massive worldwide audience, in real time.
Take for example Nokia’s next generation phone app - Nokia Situations – designed to transform the smart phone to a “thinking” phone capable of sensing the situation one is in based on time, day, location and available networks. Consider a phone that could sense your location via RFID, switch into “shopping mode” and then allow you to interact with the retail environment to enhance your shopping experience, and your social network to communicate your brand preferences to a global audience. Of course with all of this innovation, security and data privacy must be a primary focus. Building in the ability for a mobile device user to go incognito one day, and be a marketer’s dream the next, could go a long way in terms of consumer adoption.
And it’s not just for retailers. A Mashable blog lists other ways NFC can be put to good use, including improving treatment and research in healthcare, a variety of transportation related uses, and the introduction of thousands if not millions of new smart objects.
With NFC-enabled handhelds hitting the market soon, could this be the next major industry milestone that drives the widespread adoption of RFID-enabled applications and a true multi-scale wireless world?
Beekeepers, Farmers, Buyers and Consumers Benefit from Hive Monitoring
Do you know what portion of the average diet is directly attributed to honey bee pollination? According to estimates, over one-third of the calories in an average American's diet comes from honey bee-pollinated food – including a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. That’s an incredible statistic if you think about it, and may give you pause the next time you reach to swat a honey bee flying around your summer picnic food.
Given the importance of the honey bee in the food chain, it is no surprise that farmers and beekeepers are concerned with keeping the bee population safe. And, yes, believe it or not, RFID is being used in several ways to do so.
RFID for Beehive ID & Production Control
Like many components of an agricultural or manufacturing process, a beehive is a valuable ‘asset’. As such, it is important for beekeepers to know where their hives are and whether they’ve been tended to properly. By applying RFID to their processes, beekeepers, industrial buyers, and producers can get real-time visibility into the complete production chain.
A solution from Apitrack for example, includes RFID tags, handheld RFID readers and software that allows users to collect production data from extraction rooms, fractioning rooms and warehouses. The result is real-time data that can be used for the traceability and safety of honey, wax and pollen.
RFID for Beehive Monitoring
Stealing a beehive has never been high on my list. This probably has something to do with my fear of bees after finding out the hard way that I’m allergic to bee stings. But, apparently hive theft is an issue for commercial farmers and beekeepers. Commercial farmers often import honey bees to pollinate numerous food crops during a planting season. In fact, pollination service providers supply nearly two and a half million colonies of honey bees each year to pollinate the nation's crops. And, due to their value and rental cost ($150 - $200), bee hives have become a target for theft.
To help protect beekeepers’ assets and farmers’ investments, Bee Alert has develop Hive Sentry, an RFID-enabled antitheft system that alerts owners when hives in the field are being moved. Bee thieves beware - Bee Alert has also worked with the U.S. Army to train bees for military applications, so you may want to think twice before you try to steal a box filled with an ornery queen and her busy subjects.
RFID Inside the Hive
Honey bees have two major jobs in life – gathering food (pollen and nectar) and raising more bees. Given their short lifespan of only a few weeks, honey bees are constantly producing a supply of ‘replacements’. For beekeepers, this means inspecting hives in order to determine the colony’s health. Frank Linton, a beekeeper and engineer, suggests in an RFID Journal article that RFID sensors could be used to measure the internal heat of a beehive to inform the beekeeper of the overall colony’s health and help to determine if any corrective action may be needed.
RFID for Counting Bees. Really?
Beyond the anti-theft systems offered by Bee Alert, the company has also proposed a system that counts the numbers of bees coming in and out of hives. Bee Alert envisions these Smart Hives® to be connected to a satellite communications system and a national ‘network’ of beehive monitors to allow beekeepers – and presumably organizations like the USDA - to monitor the nation’s population of commercial bees and their health.
Prior to conducting research for this post, I wasn’t aware of the many uses of RFID in beekeeping. But I guess I’m not all that surprised. Despite my greater appreciation for the honey bee, I can’t promise that I won’t swat any more bees – that is unless someone can tell me how to use RFID to get over my fear of getting stung!
Will This Golf Ball Location System Become A Holiday Hit?
With the holiday season upon us, finding that perfect gift is on the minds of many of us. But, what do you get for the dad, grandfather, or favorite aunt or uncle who seem to already have it all? I’m sure golf equipment often makes the short list. Maybe a box of golf balls? Perhaps a new driver or putter? Or how about a pre-paid round at that hard to get on local course?
Better yet, how about something that is guaranteed to take a few strokes off of their game? A few years ago, Radar Corporation introduced RadarGolf, a system designed to help golfers find balls that otherwise would have been left for lost. Using the system promises fewer penalty strokes, faster play and less frustration on the course.
The solution includes USGA conforming golf balls that have an RFID tag embedded into them and a handheld device that golfers use to locate ‘lost’ balls. An LCD on the handheld reader provides both visual and audio feedback, indicating proximity to the ball.
Sound too good to be true? Well, the good news is that RadarGolf was a big hit, gaining worldwide recognition and feature coverage on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC. BusinessWeek magazine even named RadarGolf one of the Best Products of 2005. The bad news is the RadarGolf system is no longer being manufactured. The company’s website indicates that they plan to bring a “new-and-improved” version to market in the future, but doesn’t indicate when.
Ebay’s got one though, and it’s in new, in the box condition.
Time Left: 1 day 2 hours (Dec 03, 201008:44:46 PST)
Current bid: US $0.99 + $10.95 shipping!
What a deal. Gift for Grandpa, check…
RFID Helps Cheer Marathoners Along New York City Route
I had a great time last week running my town’s Thanksgiving morning road race - the Feaster Five – and hope to run again next year. Running along side more than 10,000 other runners, joggers and walkers, including marathon legends Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Team Hoyt, I was especially looking forward to cruising past my house and my own personal cheering section. Being cheered on by friends and family can go a long way – even in a short 5 miler (or 5k in my case) like the Feaster Five.
Now imagine running all 26 grueling miles and 385 yards of a marathon and all of the little things along the way that can help runners focus on making it across the finish line. In previous blog posts we covered the use of RFID for race timing to record accurate start and finish times and provide runners with split times to help them set their pace. We’ve also blogged about the use of RFID in smart signage to provide opt-in users with unique personalized messages. Now, how about a combination of the two?
The New York Marathon is one of the world’s largest marathon events, with over 45,000 runners and 2 million people cheering them on. What a better place to combine the use of RFID already in place to time runners, with the display of personalized messages from the family and friends of race participants. ASICS America launched such a program as part of the 2010 New York Marathon. Prior to the start of the race, ASICS setup a program site dedicated to taking photos and video, and collecting personal messages, texts, tweets and Facebook comments from race supporters. Then, the same RFID tags worn by racers for timing, triggered the display of the messages on LED screens as they passed by sensor-enabled checkpoints throughout the marathon route.
Check out ASICS’ cool ‘support your marathoner’ video:
I’ve experienced first hand how the motivation of others can help you push a little bit harder, run a little bit faster, and stay focused on the task at hand. And, I for one know I’d need all the encouragement I could get if I were running a marathon!
The race route is one setting where motivation can help. Where else do you think this type of solution could inspire others?