Can RFID Monitor Museum Patrons?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan RFID Monitor Museum Patrons?
RFID Journal Staff asked 14 years ago

I am interested in knowing the precise location (within two feet) of visitors at a museum exhibition, for the purpose of automatically triggering multimedia events on a handheld device (an iPod Touch) carried by the patrons. The iPod offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability. Is it feasible to imagine RFID tags placed around the exhibition, serving as triggers for this application?

—Name withheld


Interesting! I think we will see more applications like this, particularly in the retail setting. There are a couple of issues that need to be addressed, however. The first is identifying the person in front of a particular object, the second is linking that individual to the iPod Touch, and the third is triggering the multimedia event.

I think a good systems integrator can make this work, but the exact setup will depend on the physical space, and on whether the iPod Touch is supplied or owned by the person.

It might be possible to place a high-frequency (HF) or ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) interrogator with Bluetooth capabilities near a work of art, so that if someone wearing a tag comes within range, the reader would identify that person and send a message via Bluetooth to that visitor's iPod Touch, thus launching the multimedia event. But there needs to be a mechanism for sending the signal to only that iPod Touch, and not to one in the hands of someone else a few feet away, looking in a different direction. Perhaps one of our readers might have some suggestions for how that could be accomplished.

Another possibility is to have visitors use an RFID reader that you provide to them, to scan a specific tag near a particular work of art in order to trigger an event. Wireless Dynamics, a provider of Near Field Communications (NFC) and RFID products, has introduced the iCarte 110, an NFC interrogator for the iPhone. NFC enables two-way communication using RFID technology, so visitors could attach the reader, walk through the museum and return the device at the end of their tour.

An ultra-wideband (UWB) system could also locate a visitor within two feet of a specific work of art, but I can't think of a way that the system would be able to trigger the multimedia event, unless the tag were plugged into the iPod Touch. That might be possible, but would require custom tags, which would be expensive.

—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal

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