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RFID Lets People Talk to the Touchwall

Schematic believes its giant RFID-enabled touch screen can be a useful tool for providing information to attendees at events, and to consumers in retail stores.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jul 13, 2009Schematic, an advertising agency specializing in interactive media, debuted its multi-user, RFID-enabled, touch screen-based media tool, the Touchwall, at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France, late last month. While its purpose at the event was to provide attendees with a means by which they could collect session information and meet up with other attendees, Schematic also hopes its clients will find the Touchwall to be a new, useful marketing tool for communicating with consumers armed with RFID-based loyalty cards and RFID-tagged products within a store environment.

Among the consumer brands on Schematic's client list are Coca-Cola, Dell, Clinique, Sony, SanDisk and Nokia.

Standing at the Touchwall, users identify themselves via RFID, then use their fingers to select and drag text and objects.

"The ways that organizations can use something like the Touchwall are limitless, just as the ways they can use the Web are limitless," says Schematic's CEO, Trevor Kaufman. "Some examples we thought about include interactive shopping. You can imagine walking in a retail store and picking up a product, and being able to tell the [Touchwall] who you are and what [the products] are and ask for more information about them. The impact on retail is potentially significant."

The Touchwall is a large, touch-sensitive screen, measuring 12 feet wide by 5 feet tall. Multiple users can interact with the wall by selecting and dragging text and objects—using their fingers instead of a mouse. The interface is powered by back-end software developed by Schematic's engineers. RFID plays a vital role in its use, by providing a means by which users can identify themselves and begin interacting.

Here's how the system was used at the Cannes event: Inside each attendee's conference badge was a passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tag—the 9662 Squiggle tag, manufactured by Alien Technology—encoded with a unique identifier linked to that person's listing in the attendee database. Attendees close to the wall saw an image—a circular target accompanied by the word RFID—that indicated where they should hold their badge up to the wall, so that in the event that the reader did not automatically sense the tag, they could purposefully initiate the interaction with the Touchwall. Once a person's tag was detected, it would automatically trigger the software to look up that individual's name, causing the screen to display that name, along with a greeting and a small avatar representing the attendee.

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