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RFID Brings Bottled Water to Students

West Virginia University is deploying Evive Station's RFID-enabled kiosks that clean and refill reusable water bottles for free, while displaying advertising targeted to a particular user's demographics.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 31, 2012In the spring semester of 2012, students and faculty members at West Virginia University (WVU) became some of the earliest users of an RFID-enabled water bottle refilling kiosk known as the Evive Station—provided by a startup company with the same name—aimed at eliminating the need for disposable water bottles. Each user pays a one-time fee to purchase a water bottle fitted with a high-frequency (HF) passive RFID tag. Once the bottle is empty, that user can have the bottle refilled with filtered water for free at an Evive Station kiosk. During the cleaning and refilling process, the kiosk's video screen displays advertisements matching that user's particular demographic profile.

Evive Station makes its money not from selling water, but by providing advertising to customers. The benefits, the company explains, are free water for users, access to consumers for advertisers, and less trash deposited in landfills. The firm also shares its profits with the schools at which it installs its stations, beginning with WVU.

Each refilling kiosk includes three RFID readers (one to verify the tag and two to refill or wash chambers), a water refill connection and washing mechanism, and a video screen.

The idea of a refilling water station occurred to Thomas Petrini, a recent college graduate who was attending a Net Impact conference in 2007. The young entrepreneur noticed that although conference-goers received refillable water bottles, few actually used them because they couldn't be easily cleaned. What's more, he noticed, if the bottles were not cleaned properly prior to being filled, the water emitted a strong plastic smell. Petrini considered developing a solution that would not only provide water from a refilling station, but also wash the container. After some thought, he incorporated the concept of using advertising to pay for the water refills.

By 2011, Petrini—along with two other recent college graduates, Jason Yablinsky and Stephen Jacobs—founded Evive Station. Manufacturing services company Daedelus Product Development built the refilling kiosk, which includes three RFID readers (one to verify the tag and two to refill or wash chambers), a water refill connection and washing mechanism, and a video screen. Jacobs wrote the software for a hosted server to enable bottle washes and refills, as well as advertising content, to appear on the video screen, according to an individual's demographic information, linked to the ID number on the RFID tag of that person's bottle.

Stephen Jacobs
The company is targeting the university market first, Yablinsky says, because several colleges have already banned bottled water on campus due to the environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles. He envisions that the system would also work well within office buildings and other corporate environments.

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