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Prototype Mobile Shopping Assistant Uses RFID to Tip 'n Tell

To access product information, consumers and sales associates can bring an RFID-enabled PDA or cell phone near an item, then tap the device's screen to request additional details.
By Rhea Wessel
Jun 24, 2008A group of German researchers has developed a prototype mobile shopping assistant consisting of a PDA with a plug-in RFID interrogator to help customers and sales associates access instant information regarding products on store shelves and racks.

"We don't want shoppers to just see the physical product. They should access a digital representation as well," says Tobias Kowatsch, who is in charge of operations and empirical studies for the SmaProN project at the University of Furtwangen in Germany's Black Forest. SmaProN stands for Smart Product Networks.

The Tip 'n Tell system is designed to make any product a store sells interactive.
The system, dubbed Tip 'n Tell, is designed to make any product a store sells interactive. Each product would carry a passive high-frequency (13.56 MHz) RFID tag, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, on which a unique identification number is stored. A user can bring their PDA, outfitted with an RFID reader, close to the products that interest them. The interrogator reads each item's tag and transmits the tag's unique ID via WLAN to the database. Product information is then sent back to the handset and appears on the screen. (To view a video demonstration, click here.)

The user can tap their stylus on the PDA screen to request further information, essentially asking a garment various such questions as, What do you cost? What accessories match with you? Is there a video about you? Have other customers written a review on you?

The designers chose HF tags due to their robustness. "Since we read only the tag ID and no further data, they are fast enough for our application," says Andreas Filler, a scientific assistant at the university's Research Center for Intelligent Media (RCIM). "In general, we could use every form of tag that can be identified via proximity reading."

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