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RFID Climbs Mountains in Italian Alps
Veglia-Devero Nature Park is using active UHF tags to provide hikers with video and audio media explaining the site's features.
Mar 03, 2011—Tourists exploring the Italian Alps last summer at Parco Naturale Veglia-Devero (Veglia-Devero Nature Park) hiked the mountainous trails with an RFID reader in hand. The reserve, located along Italy's border with Switzerland, installed a series of RFID tags along approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of its trails. Each tag stores a unique identifier that links to data regarding a specific location, enabling a tourist to use the handheld device to access information about animals, plants and other aspects of the park's natural history. The solution was designed and installed by multimedia company Demetra, using RFID hardware provided by Italian value-added distributor Softwork, which also helped design the RFID functionality of software that links data from tags with specific media.
The park considered several wireless options (including GPS solutions) to provide information to visitors without requiring signage or paper leaflets, but determined that RFID transmissions would be more reliable. When weighing automated versus non-automated options, it chose automation with RFID since that would require no action on the part of a visitor, such as pressing a touch screen or a button. What's more, the park found that RFID, with only a tag incorporated in a wooden post, would not interfere with the landscape's aesthetics.
The park installed the RFID-based guide system, known as Didà, for the summer season of 2010. The project was funded by Italy's Piedmont Region, as well as by Cariplo Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports cultural, scientific and environmental projects. The tags were embedded in wooden posts along popular trails in July, where they remained until October, when the hiking season ends due to winter weather. In August, the park asked visitors to fill out a questionnaire describing their impressions of the system. "The impressions were quite favorable for the easy use of the system," Piazza says, "and also for the quality of multimedia contents."
At 13 locations, Demetra installed a wooden post with an active i-B2 UHF (868 MHz) RFID tag from Identec Solutions embedded in it, says Gabriele Villa, Demetra's technical director. At 10 of those locations, the tag was linked to regarding points of interest in the vicinity of the post . At three separate locations, where trails divided, the tags were linked to data regarding what lay ahead on each trail. Every tag transmitted its ID number approximately once per second, with up to a 10-meter (33-foot) read range.
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