RFID Predictions

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 @ 04:00 AM

Tags: Calculus of Reality, RFID, Internet of Things, Social Networks

Embedded Intelligence Drives Epic Innovation

“In Two Years, Facebook Places Will Look Like This App

Colorado-based Vail Resorts Inc (MTN) has released what might be the most ridiculously cool and commercially aggressive mobile strategy in the iTunes App Store — and it’s an awesome preview of what bigger real-life social networks will look like soon.”

Given his background as a freelance writer specializing in tech and innovation, his contributions to FastCompany, Discover, Inc, and RollingStone, and authorship of books about iPhone app design and Google Voice, the above headline and article lead published by Chris Dannen in bNet grabbed my attention. 

EpicMixI had heard of Epic Mix being implemented at Vail Resorts and followed some of the initial coverage of the solution before reading Dannen’s article, but Dannen’s colorful descriptions and view of the larger commercial opportunities cemented things for me even further.  I have also long thought that there was a natural connection between RFID and social networks and that someday this enabling technology and would collide with the massive reach of the social web – and here we are.

Combining RFID tags in lift tickets, RFID readers on the slopes, mobile applications, social networks and virtual currency, Epic Mix delivers a unique experience for skiers and boarders at Vail Resorts and may provide a glimpse into what the future of RFID enabled commerce will look like. 

Looking beyond Epic Mix, according to Dannen, “Real-life social networks will soon approach this level of context. MasterCard (MC) is piloting RFID purchasing with debit cards, which would allow a system like Foursquare’s to automatically check you in when you buy something. GPS tracking is getting better (check out the app Glympse) just as consumers’ privacy concerns are loosening. And more of these discrete services are becoming interoperable. More interesting is the money to be made.”

Real Time Data for Real World Apps

Dannon’s comments seem in line with others who share a similar view of the convergence of RFID and sensor enabled data capture, social networks, and the mobile web.

From IBM and their description of A Smarter Planet:

“Data is being captured today as never before. It reveals everything from large and systemic patterns—of global markets, workflows, national infrastructures and natural systems—to the location, temperature, security and condition of every item in a global supply chain. And then there's the growing torrent of information from billions of individuals using social media. They are customers, citizens, students and patients. They are telling us what they think, what they like and want, and what they're witnessing. As important, all this data is far more real-time than ever before.”

Further from WIRED’s recent article, The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet:

“Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display… And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen). The fact that it’s easier for companies to make money on these platforms only cements the trend.”

The Calculus of Reality and Location-Based ‘Twitter Feeds’

ThingMagic has made its own predictions over the years – describing how RFID will drive The Internet of Things and Reality Search Engines.  Expanding on these views, ThingMagic founders Ravi Pappu and Yael Maguire recently shared their predictions with Greg Huang of Xconomy.  From the article:

“Google is really interested in mapping, but they haven’t crossed the boundary from the street to the building,” says Maguire. “We’re starting from inside. There should be overlap quite soon.”

Pappu took it a bit further. “Think about all the things you could look for. Think about the calculus of reality,” he says. “There’s a certain scale you can put Wi-Fi on—a laptop, phone. But the next level down does not admit batteries.” He’s talking about the idea that tiny sensors could be placed in all of the items you interact with every day, and information from those sensors could feed into a centralized database that keeps track of the physical state of everything in the world. “The interesting premise is, don’t make any changes to the interface, especially the interface to the human. Let them be how they are, and see how you can do this calculus without affecting them.”

It’s not really clear yet what the best applications of all this would be. But tying RFID into the exploding sector of location-based services and mobile applications certainly seems intriguing. You can see this technology as a form of artificial intelligence, Maguire says. “The computer is there observing the world in a very distributed way. Every object is like a little Twitter feed, and something has to make sense of it.”

How accurate do you think these predictions are?  What are your predictions about the future of RFID?

We’ve got more to share.  Stay tuned…

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