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Home-Shopping Theme Park to Employ RFID

At MainStreet America, visitors will be able to peruse completely furnished homes, and use RFID-enabled tablet PCs to learn more about thousands of items within and around those buildings.
By Claire Swedberg
May 20, 2011This week, the foundations are being poured for an ambitious new theme park near Houston that will feature fully furnished houses, gardens and lawns that visitors will be able to view prior to purchasing appliances, fixtures, furniture and accessories for their own homes. The park, known as MainStreet America (MSA) and owned by businesspeople Michael and Barbara Feigin, is about the size of two football fields, and will include a dozen homes with thousands of RFID tags attached to features throughout. Visitors will be provided with Technological Education Devices (TEDs)—RFID-enabled Google Android tablet PCs that can capture data and videos regarding each feature—such as windows, bathroom sinks, sofas and landscaping. They will then be able to use that information to learn more, make purchases or build a shopping cart stored on an MSA server accessible via the Internet.

MainStreet America, scheduled to open in the spring of 2012, will be a perpetual showcase, says Jim McCloskey, MSA's Web technologies and design specialist. It will feature a 44,000-square-foot, two-story visitor's center surrounded by 12 houses ranging in size from 1,500 to 6,000 square feet,. The homes, built in various styles, including Old World Mediterranean Greek Revival, Texas Hill Country and Contemporary Modern, are intended to showcase everything from structural elements—such as roofing, insulation and frames—to appliances and furniture. Visitors will be able to roam through the 14-acre park to browse through these features, in order to learn more, or to make purchases at the guest center.


Jim McCloskey
But one of the site's most unique aspects will be an array of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tags attached to signs, walls, fixtures and every other feature within the park. Visitors will be able to access information about everything they see, by sweeping a TED's reader within a few inches of each corresponding tag.

According to McCloskey, the TED will consist of a seven-inch Android handheld tablet with a Microelectronics Technology RFID ME RFID reader in the form of a dongle that plugs into the tablet's USB port. MainStreet America is developing its own application software to work with the RFID ME reader and run on the Android operating system. For demonstration purposes, McCloskey says, the company has built a prototype with an Apple iPad and the company's software application.

Once MainStreet America is up and running, visitors will first check in at the guest center to pick up their daily schedules, along with a TED handheld device. Each guest will provide his or her name, some demographic information (such as age and gender) and an e-mail address, which will all be entered into MSA's software, and linked to the TED's ID number. The visitors will then proceed through the park. Upon seeing a product of interest, a guest will be able to pass the device near that item's tag, which will be printed with the MainStreet America logo and the instruction "scan here." The TED will capture the tag's unique ID number, send it to the MSA server via a Wi-Fi connection, and receive product information back from the server that will be linked to the tag's ID, which it will then display on its screen. That information could include videos, pricing and installation details about that product.

As the visitor accesses data, a record will be stored by MSA's software, linking the read event to the individual's identity and e-mail address, so that he or she will later be able to access that data in what MSA calls a virtual shopping cart. The software will also track visitor behavior for the vendors of the various products. For example, if a specific tag is read, that event will be stored, and the MSA software will be able to perform an analysis to determine such details as which demographic groups showed the greatest interest in an item, the number of times that the tag was read, how long an individual spent looking at information about that product before continuing on to another, and which data he or she accessed, such as a video or pricing information.

USER COMMENTS

Darryn Prince 2011-05-21 02:10:06 AM
Hats Off to MainStreet America Excellent article Claire! Although the full feature set of RFID ME software currently operates with MS Windows operating system, the RFID ME hardware has a USB-HID interface and a low level command set that is O/S independent. Several of our customers, including Main Street America, are using RFID ME at the device level and programming an API for their application software using Android O/S so they can use the new Android tablets and Smartphones (Honeycomb v3.1 supports USB Host Mode). It is exciting for us to see RFID ME help trigger mass market adaption of EPC Gen2 - which is the primary goal of the International Partners comprised of MTI, RF-iT Solutions, austriamicrosystems, NXP and Avery Dennison. We are also extremely thrilled to see such an innovative use of EPC Gen2 by Main Street America - our hats off to Jim McCloskey Michael Feigin and MSA team for their vision and innovation. For those interested in more information on RFID ME please visit www.mti.com.tw/rfidme or contact Darryn Prince at prince_darryn@mti.com.tw.

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