Tag It

Tag It.

“The Internet revolution was about people connecting with people. The next revolution will be about things connecting with things. And it's taking shape in pockets around the globe. For the first time, big companies such as Wal-Mart, Gillette and Procter & Gamble are joining to give the technology serious momentum.

In a twist, this next technological chapter won't emerge out of ever-more-powerful computers and faster Internet connections. This shift comes from the opposite direction. It will ride on pieces of plastic the size of postage stamps, costing a nickel or less. Each plastic tag will contain a computer chip, which can store a small amount of information, and a minuscule antenna that lets the chip communicate with a network….

Those tags will someday be on everything — egg cartons, eyeglasses, books, toys, trucks, money and so on. All those items will be able to wirelessly connect to networks or the Internet, sending information to computers, home appliances or other electronic devices.

Grocery items will tell the store what needs to be restocked and which items are past their expiration dates. The groceries will check themselves out in a split second as you push a full cart past a reader. A wine lover could look on a computer screen and see what's in her wine cellar. Prescription drug bottles could work together to send you a warning if the combination of pills you're about to swallow would be toxic….

The technology doesn't really have a handy name. The tags are known as radio frequency identification tags, or RFID. The Auto-ID center calls the core of its standard “ePC,” which stands for Electronic Product Code. Perhaps an appropriate umbrella name might be tinyband….

Singapore relies on the technology to control traffic. Its system, called Electronic Road Pricing, or ERP, charges different prices to drive on different roads at different times. Driving on one main artery between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. costs $3 (in Singapore dollars — about $1.60 in U.S. currency) but is free from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The pricing encourages drivers to stay off busy roads at busy times. Every car must have an RFID tag, and it communicates with readers along every major road. The road readers identify each car and send the information to a central computer, which adds up the car owners' bills….

The real fun will start once the price of a tag gets down to around a penny. Then adding a tag would be no more expensive than stamping a bar code on a product. Bar codes today are on nearly every item made for consumers and business. Imagine that every one of those things will have a small amount of intelligence and ability to communicate. The world around us would almost come alive….

You lose your eyeglasses. They've fallen under the family room couch.

The tag on the eyeglasses connects with a reader in the family room — readers would be all around a house. The reader is also getting signals from everything else in the room.

Tags work a little like radar. A reader sends out a signal looking for tags. The signal excites the tag — the tag itself has no power —and causes it to return a signal containing its information. This request and return of a signal happens more than 100 times a second for each tag.

The reader pipes its information across a wireless network and dumps it into the home computer. The computer looks at the data and deduces that the signal from the glasses takes the same amount of time to hit the reader as the signal from the couch.

You sit at the computer and type in a search box: 'Where are my eyeglasses?' The computer spits back: 'Under the couch.' ” [Cincinnati.com, via Slashdot]

[Emphasis above is mine.] I'm putting tags on my keys and remote controls first. I know Teri thinks a combination of GPS and wireless can help patrons navigate a library, but this seems like another possibility for tinyband as well. Perhaps a patron uses the catalog to search for a specific title. It shows on shelf and sends out an automatic query asking where the book is located. A map displays on the screen, showing its location and providing directions. The patron could either print out the map or beam it to their handheld (PDA, cell phone, or OQO-like device). Either way, this would certainly help locate mis-shelved items!

Lots of interesting possibilities….  [The Shifted Librarian]

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