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Czech Monks Look to RFID for Guidance

Visitors to Vyssi Brod can rent electronic tour guides that describe the monastery's various sights, thus helping to provide the abbey with income.
By Rhea Wessel
Nexperts had originally considered implementing a system that would offer visitors information via NFC-enabled mobile phones. However, the company believed the phones might not have enough battery life for the application, and that they could be easily damaged if dropped. Therefore, the firm turned to Cruso, a Berlin-based manufacturer of devices that provide text, graphic and audio information to museumgoers. The two companies worked to outfit those devices with NFC RFID interrogators.

Visitors can use RFID-enabled handheld devices similar to this one to access multimedia presentations in their desired language.
Some Cruso devices also make it possible for tourists to load and redeem tickets on them, and provide GPS capabilities for use in walking tours, for example. According to Zerbs, the monastery may add such functions at a later point.

Visitors who rent one of the 20 NFC-enabled devices used at the monastery select their desired language and then approach an NFC-enabled touch point, an insulated disk 20 centimeters (8 inches) in width that displays a picture of the monastery. The disks, which contain a 13.56 MHz passive RFID tag complying with the NFC standards, are mounted on iron stands with heavy bases to keep them from falling over easily. A visitor can wave the Cruso device in front of one of the 15 touch points, and the device presents multimedia information regarding the important sights adjacent to that particular touch point.

Kurd Schmid, Nexperts' CEO, says the system allows for a unique user experience, since it simplifies the process of obtaining information about the monastery's various sights. What's more, he muses, the contrast between the modern technology and the historic setting is striking.

"The solution has turned out remarkably," Zerbs says. "We now have four languages, and we'll add four more. For the monks, it means they now have a solid source of income."

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