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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
The researchers claim the prototype is the first that would work together with the EPC Network. The demonstration project was based on Accada, an open-source RFID prototyping platform that can read both HF and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags and implement EPC Network specifications (see Auto-ID Lab Releases Accada RFID Prototyping Platform).

"Effectively, our system is based on the EPC Network by integrating EPC information into the purchase-decision process," Filler says. "For instance, if a customer asks the system for the same jeans he's currently interested in but in another size, our system can tell the customer that the jeans aren't available in the size needed on the sales floor or in the back room, but they will be in stock in about three days."

Tobias Kowatsch
Accada, Filler explains, provides the Tip 'n Tell system with EPC event notifications about physical objects, such as a dress. A question-and-answer-based natural language user interface allows for communication with consumers. "Compatibility on the interface level," he says, "means that the Tip 'n Tell architecture is able to handle EPC object events and object data."

The system offers relevant consumer information utilizing a database that operates with Smart Product Description Object logic—predefined rules for generating product data, as opposed to a database reliant on inputted information about the products. The database was built using tools commonly employed for semantic-Web applications—that is, tools for helping make information "understandable" to computers. "This is not a static database," Kowatsch says. "We don't have to worry about its size. Through the reasoning component, new and useful information is created by combining existing information. It's a true recommendation agent."

The project is led by Wolfgang Maass, the head of the Research Center for Intelligent Media. Its researchers will receive a total of €300,000 ($465,800) until 2010 from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), as part of the agency's FHprofUnd program. Team member Sabine Janzen developed the dialogue interface to allow for questions and answers. Natural language communication is based on data provided by RFID tags, as well as by EPC object events, with changes on the EPC level immediately leading to changes on the communication level as well.

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