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Treehouse Labs Unveils iPhone RFID System for Locating People and Things

The solution consists of application software, active tags and an RFID reader built into a case that snaps onto the phone. In the future, the tags could be combined with sensors to monitor such things as an athlete's concussion risk.
By Claire Swedberg
With the football helmet solution, BiKN tags designed by Treehouse to be attached to helmets would incorporate a shock sensor to detect when a helmet experienced a hard blow. Data indicating a hard impact, Cutler explains, would then be transmitted along with the tag ID number to a gateway provided by Treehouse. The gateway, approximately the size of a sandwich, could then employ a wireless connection, such as GPRS or Wi-Fi, to either a user's database or a Web-based server. Those with smartphones could then receive sensor data about a particular helmet, by logging onto a Web-based server. Although the consumer application for locating or paging tags operates only with iPhones, the gateway-based commercial app could function with any smartphone.

Other commercial applications, Howard says, could include using the BiKN system at nurseries or nursing homes, to help track individuals within the facility; at restaurants, to enable paging for table allocation to diners; and to track assets for law enforcement and other agencies.

In the future, Treehouse may consider making the phone-based BiKN app available for other phone operating systems, such as Android. However, the company is not yet doing so, simply due to the multiple form factors of Android handsets, which are produced by several phone manufacturers (the iPhone has only one form factor).

Although the company declines to provide the cost of the consumer or commercial applications, it reports that the imminent release of those prices (coordinated around the January CES event) will catch people by surprise. "Our focus is on a solution that is quick to market and very low-cost," Howard states, adding that his company intends to reflect the culture found at Apple that is intended to make technology fun and accessible. That, he says, is why the company was named Treehouse Labs. According to Cutler, the name came to him while building a tree house with his own children. The name "illustrates the creative bent we have," Howard explains. "We take an application and make the interfaces fun and easy to understand." The firm currently has more than a dozen patents pending on its technology.

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