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RFID Gains Traction as a Social-Media Tool

Cadbury, Smirnoff and other companies are using radio frequency identification to connect consumers' real-world experiences to Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 01, 2012—For the 2010 ski season, Vail Resorts, which operates five popular U.S. mountain resorts, introduced EpicMix, a platform allowing visitors to use social-media tools to connect with each other, as well as track and share their ski or snowboard metrics online. This pioneering effort was made possible by radio frequency identification transponders in ski badges, and it's been a big hit. Since then, more companies and organizations have been using RFID to link consumers' real-world activities to social- media sites, so participants can share their experiences.

During this summer's Olympics, in London, Cadbury, a division of Kraft Foods, held an event in Hyde Park that included an RFID-enabled social-media application created by dwinQ. Visitors to the company's Cadbury House could view an exhibit of its chocolate-making history, play interactive games, sample its confections—and share their experiences and photographs with friends and family on Facebook, by means of a hands-free passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID system. Roughly 3,500 people visited Cadbury House each day during the Olympics.

Photo: iStockphoto

Smirnoff, a division of the British beverage company Diageo, has been promoting its vodka products at a series of events that enable guests to share their activities with friends on Facebook, using an RFID-enabled token. The solution, provided by Fish Technology and managed by social-media firm Blondefish, has been used at nightclubs in Belgium, Ireland and Germany during the past year as part of the company's Nightlife Exchange Project and Battle of the Clubs programs. Guests have updated their pages with comments about their locations and activities, along with photos of themselves and friends partying at particular clubs.

This year, thousands of participants in Susan G. Komen 3-Day walks are sharing their progress during the events with friends and family via an RFID solution, provided by Qnectus, that links them to their Facebook pages. Participants in the United States, who walk to raise money and awareness about breast cancer and early detection, receive RFID-enabled ID cards attached to lanyards, which they wear around their necks. As they begin their walk, an RFID-enabled station captures their information and displays an online message, such as "Today I start my 60-mile journey! Three days! Making an impact in the fight to end breast cancer."

It's not clear that companies and organizations get a hard return on investment from using RFID for social-media purposes, but that's not the point. The goal is to engage people with a cool new technology and have them promote a product, cause or event to others. And it appears to work. In 2010, Coca-Cola held a series of 10 festivals, known as Coca-Cola Village, in Israel. Most of the 6,500 teens who attended the events used RFID technology to share their experiences with friends and family through Facebook. The Coca-Cola Village Facebook page became the most popular page in that country, with some 650,000 daily post views.
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