100 Uses of RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Dec 09, 2010 @ 11:55 AM

Tags: RFID, Internet of Things, Reality Search Engines

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

100 Uses of RFIDAs 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 measure, 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!

RFID for the iPhone?

Posted by Yael Maguire on Wed, May 06, 2009 @ 06:45 PM

Tags: Reality Search Engines, Consumer Goods, iPhone

Wired recently asked their readers what accessories they would like to see added to the iPhone 3.0, which is expected to be released this summer.

As noted in Wired.com Readers' Best iPhone Dongleware Inventions, adding an embedded RFID reader was one of the top requested new features. The RFID applications the readers were interested in are payments and information access.

The iPhone RFID reader would be used scan products or objects containing RFID tags. The iPhone would then connect to the Internet to complete a transaction or find out more information.

Wired readers tend to be techies. But it is still interesting that awareness of RFID has reached the point that they see value in adding RFID to a consumer device -- interest in connecting the physical world to the digital world.

When this does happen, with millions of devices interacting with billions of objects, we can then start to create Reality Search Engines.

Other suggested accessories include Bluetooth stereo headphones, an external keyboard and automotive diagnostic tool.

For an example of RFID working with the iPhone, view this video from Touch - a research group exploring the way mobile phones communicate with the physical world.

Reality Search Engines

Posted by Ravi Pappu on Tue, Sep 16, 2008 @ 12:58 PM

Tags: RFID, Reality Search Engines, Ford Tool Link

The business of finding digital data is booming. Most of us type search terms into a 2-inch wide box several tens or hundreds of times a day to look for contacts, addresses, directions, documents, scholarly articles, and patents. This type of search has a two distinguishing characteristics. First, the data being searched has typically been digitized at some time in the past. Second, the data usually refers to digital objects or physical objects which are spatially distant from us - e.g., books in a Glenrothes, Scotland fulfillment center, a picture of the Great Wall of China, or the topology of the surface of Mars. What these search boxes don't yet do is search the space around us in real-time - the here and now. Enter Reality Search Engines.

One can imagine the space around us to be divided into a few distinct zones.

  • Manipulatory space, where we are are focused on objects close at hand - a supermarket aisle, for example.
  • Ambulatory space, where we need to walk around to find things - a hospital floor or an office building
  • Vista space, which is as far as the eye can see - a parking lot at a stadium, perhaps.

Enabling search in these spaces requires tagging physical objects and enabling computers to "see" them in real time. We have worked on several interesting examples of such search engines. Mediacart, one of our customers, has RFID-enabled shopping carts that search in manipulatory space. Tool Link, by Ford and DeWalt, enables contractors to query the ambulatory space in their vehicles in real-time and answer the question: do I have all the tools I need with me right now? Other customers are successfully locating cars in parking lots using passive RFID tags and readers from ThingMagic.

Passive RFID systems enable computers to "see" hundreds of objects per second from millimeters to tens of meters with near-zero error rates. This range goes up to over a hundred meters with battery assisted passive tags. Several different form factors enable real-time, ultra-local search on demand.

For more details, please take a look the presentation below. This Tech Talk was given at Google's Cambridge offices earlier this year. For best results, please view the presentation in full-screen mode at the slideshare site.

Ravi Pappu Google Tech Talk 2008

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