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To Glimpse RFID's Future Down Under, Gaze into the EPCmagic Mirror

Co-developed by NEC Australia and GS1 Australia, the device reads RFID tags attached to items, displaying product information to shoppers and providing insights to retailers regarding customer shopping habits and preferences.
By Dave Friedlos
Oct 31, 2008Australian shoppers could soon browse for products, choose matching accessories and receive fashion advice, all without leaving a store's changing room, following the development of an RFID-enabled mirror.

The EPCmagic Mirror reads RFID tags attached to specific retail items and displays product information, such as price, available sizes and color in stock, and the most appropriate accessories, all while shoppers try on clothing. Developed in partnership by NEC Australia and GS1 Australia, the device was unveiled on Oct. 23 at GS1 Australia's annual Impetus conference.


When the interrogator behind the mirror reads an item's RFID tag, information about that product is projected onto the glass.

The EPCmagic Mirror is the first RFID-enabled mirror designed by a single vendor using off-the-shelf technology, says NEC Australia's product manager, Davide Iacovitti, and could be available in fashion, phone or music stores within months. "We were approached by GS1 Australia six months ago, and asked to jointly develop and fund the mirror because they wanted to show the potential RFID has to retailers," he says. "NEC Singapore had previously worked on a prototype mirror using LCD screens, but we took what they learnt and developed it further."

To display the range of information on the mirror, each retail item is fitted with an EPC Gen 2 RFID tag encoded with a unique product code that is transmitted on the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) band between 918 and 926 MHz. RFID interrogators from Alien Technology, which can read tags up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) away, are then installed behind the mirror.

When the interrogator reads an item's tag, an LCD projector displays information about that product onto the mirror as a transparent overlay. The system is underpinned by NEC's WebOTX RFID Manager middleware, which is EPC-compliant.

"We tested the technology on a number of retail items, such as clothing and apparel, which would be the target market for the EPCmagic Mirror," Iacovitti says. "But we also tested it on mobile phones, allowing features of the phone to be displayed on screen, and CDs, which play the contents when held close to the screen. These applications would most likely be suited to point-of-sale kiosks rather than actual mirrors."

The goal, Iacovitti notes, was to provide shoppers with the information they require and want, when they need it, rather than bombarding them with advertising messages. And the potential benefits to retailers and shoppers alike are numerous, he adds. The EPCmagic Mirror could provide sales support when salespeople are unavailable, granting customers access to such information as price, product description, availability or how long it would take to get an out-of-stock item in store.

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