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Playing With RFID

At the annual RFID Journal LIVE! conference and event in Las Vegas, attendees spent some downtime at two arcade-style games designed to show RFID in action.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 14, 2006—Usually, whenever a client calls Toby Rush, president of Rush Tracking Systems, it's to ask if he can design an RFID system that will help improve business processes increase efficiencies and reduce labor costs. But Mark Roberti, founder and editor of RFID Journal, had an entirely different idea in mind when he phoned Rush with this request: "I'd like you to build an RFID system that would be fun, engaging and creative."

Roberti's goal was to develop interactive games that would assist attendees at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2006 conference and event, held this past May in Las Vegas, in understanding how RFID works and how RFID data could be used to create different types of reports. Rush was keen to take the assignment.

Rush Tracking Systems designed a football-toss game utilizing RFID to determine a player's score.

The basic idea was to incorporate passive RFID tags and interrogators into arcade-style games. After a brainstorming session, Roberti and Rush developed a golf-putting green and a football toss. As attendees hit the targets, interrogators would read the tags embedded in the golf balls and footballs.

How the Games Worked
Before initiating play, each attendee logged in by presenting a badge to an interrogator positioned at the game's entrance. This badge contained an ultrahigh-frequency RFID inlay encoded with a unique ID linked to that individual's registration record. Middleware from BEA Systems collected the badge IDs and tag reads, and filtered duplicate reads from the balls. The software also calculated players' scores in real time and gathered other data, which Rush and his team incorporated into reports throughout the event.

For the football toss, players were required to throw a ball through one of three different-sized holes in a board roughly 8 feet away. Antennas placed near each hole were linked to an interrogator, which transmitted the ball's ID to BEA's WebLogic RFID Edge Server software. Each player was allowed five tosses and received one point for throwing the ball through the largest hole, three points for the medium-sized hole and five for the smallest. For the golf game, players received one point for each of five balls they sank in the hole.

Rush also created a monitor-based scoreboard.

A large monitor at each game displayed the players' names, companies and scores. The latter were updated in real time as the players accumulated more points. The monitor also showed the name and score of the leading player, as well as the total number of people who had played the game.

During the planning phase, Rush and Roberti looked at the games as a business case. "Our first step was to understand what we wanted the software to do," says Rush.

The duo decided to track the time of day each game was played. Would scores be best in the morning hours, they wondered, or go up in the afternoon? They also opted to track the time intervals between ball tosses or putts during each game—such information could be valuable to a company operating these types of RFID-enabled games in a commercial venue. For instance, a firm might use that data to optimize the number of available games, minimizing the time players spend waiting in line. If the reports showed the games were always in use, this would indicate a lineup, comparable to having an item out of stock, says Rush.

Rush and Roberti were also interested in utilizing the software for some predictive modeling. For example, would players in the football toss aim for the largest hole—easier to hit but worth less—or the smallest, which would be more challenging but garner more points?
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