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RFID-Powered Handhelds Guide Visitors at Shanghai Expo

Inside the Information and Communications Pavilion, as many as 8,000 visitors at any given time are provided with "information communications terminals" that determine their locations within the building, and provide a personalized experience.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 22, 2010Since last month, Shanghai has been hosting the 2010 World Expo, a six-month-long world's fair that has already racked up 17 million visitors. At least 189 nations and 57 international organizations, as well as a number of cities and corporations, are expected to participate in the event, many of which have erected pavilions to house special exhibits. In the Information and Communications Pavilion (ICP), sponsored by Chinese telecommunications firms China Mobile and China Telecom, an RFID system has been installed to provide visitors with personalized information and solicit their feedback.

As visitors enter the pavilion—a tall, curving structure approximately 6,000 square feet in size—they are provided with a handheld computer, known as an information communications terminal (ICT), designed specifically for the exhibition. Embedded in each device is an active 433 MHz RFID tag, manufactured by Taiwanese firm Champtek. Each guest must enter a name and contact information into the ICT in order to use it. The device's operating system—developed for the event by Chinese software developer Linkon—collects that individual's information and associates it with the identification number encoded to its RFID tag.

The information communications terminal combines a handheld computer with a 433 MHz active RFID tag.

The ICT serves two purposes: providing each visitor with an electronic tour and navigation guide, and providing a means for China Mobile and China Telecom to easily collect feedback regarding his or her experience and impressions.

The pavilion adopted the slogan "Information and Communication—Extending City Dreams" as its theme, and features exhibits providing a futuristic look at communications systems, as imagined by the sponsors. As such, collecting this survey data is an important means of understanding the types of future communications systems that most interest consumers.

Visitors can utilize the ICT as an interactive guide that will lead them through the pavilion, following the stories of three "dreamers"—characters who share innovative ideas for the future of communication and technology. The overall Expo theme, "Better City, Better Life," includes environmental sustainability, which is a theme inside the pavilion as well, and this is also reflected in the 35 different interactive displays within the building. For example, patrons are given quizzes regarding how various insects and animals use their senses to communicate.

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