Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The World Of RFID Guided Robots!!

Researchers are envisioning mobile, RFID-guided robots taking on tasks such as helping families tend to disabled relatives and assisting in factory inventories. Secom, a security company in Japan, has already built a machine, called Robot X - equipped with a camera, the robot relays live video to a remote security facility. When a stranger approaches one of the children, the robot, controlled remotely, gets aggressive. On six wheels, it pursues the intruder, flashing bright lights and sirens and spewing a thick cloud of smoke. The cyber-guard snaps a few pictures, too. While the potential for robots guided by radio signals is vast, such technology is likely years away from becoming mainstream.Scientists in Japan, Germany and the United States envision a myriad of uses for mobile, RFID-guided robots. An assistant professor at Utah State University is experimenting with one designed to assist blind people while they shop, helping them navigate stores and find merchandise.
Others hope the technology will someday help families tend to elderly or disabled relatives, dispensing medicine and performing household chores. The Infineon machine has an RFID reader, and when set to work on "smart carpet" embedded with RFID chips, the robot is guaranteed not to miss a single crumb or dust bunny, while taking the most efficient route across the floor. One of the main problems is that in order for a robot to detect something or someone, he, she or it must have an RFID tag on it. The tags combine a radio antenna and microchip. They have no power source of their own, but when scanned by a special reader, they broadcast a unique serial number. Over the last year or so, companies have been putting thousands of RFID tags on everything from casino chips to library books as prices for the technology have fallen and technical standards have emerged.
Tags must become a lot cheaper before they appear on everyday items. Today, tags range in price from 15 cents to as high as $100. At those prices, retailers and consumer goods companies are mostly reserving tags for large cases or pallets of merchandise, which allows them to track warehouse inventory. RFID tags won't appear on individual tubes of toothpaste and packages of socks until tag prices fall below 5 cents. That's why IBM designed its RFID-enabled robot specifically for the warehouse environment. But IBM's robot is just a prototype for now. The company hit on the idea after a brainstorming session involving the Watson Lab's RFID experts and its location-based services group.The researchers realized that once companies put RFID tags on everything, they have a problem. They either have to employ people to walk around with readers taking inventory or install expensive readers throughout their facilities. They came up with a third option-a mobile, location-aware, RFID-enabled robot.Frontline, a robotics start-up that emerged from stealth mode last year, is angling to be among the first in North America to introduce a commercially available RFID-guided robot.

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

RFID : Getting Tagged & Laziness!!

We recently covered the development Mobile phones as tracking agents
John Dvorak, a contrarian but insightful thinker writes,"Instead of using bar codes that would be monitored by the box, we are now seeing usage of RFID tags on all the foods.A complete inventory would be displayed on an LCD panel on the front of the refrigerator".This looks so much easier to read through a long list than to actually look inside the refrigerator. The change from bar-coding food, a cheap ink jet process, to adding an RFID (radio frequency identification device) chip to each pear and orange seems like a major step towards growing stupidity and using technology for technology's sake. But the people behind the effort are serious. Still, the real thrust of RFID is headed like a runaway freight train straight into the world of personal identification. In all of our lifetimes, each of us will be tagged at least once or twice, if only temporarily—at first, maybe as a gimmick, and then for security or to prevent identity theft. Then the final rationale will emerge: control. Such use will be irresistible. And it shouldn't be too hard to convince a dumbed-down public that being tagged is a good thing. "Think of the convenience!" or "For your protection!" Much of this will begin with the increasing problem of identity theft, which really stems more from banking practices In fact, more elaborate RFID systems such as car tags that let you zoom through toll booths seem beneficial, although if there were no toll booths, this convenience would not need to exist. RFID tags are used at the museum's /labs/ exhibition centers, to enhance the visitor's experience,certainly provide some unique value in closed environments. In most cases, the thrust behind RFID stems from laziness. Total control of the public is an afterthought that will follow naturally. Identity theft comes from institutional laziness. John raises the question are we're going to fix it on the cheap with RFID? I agree - several RFID initiatives being paraded have little business value as against several real opportunities like this, this,this where RFID can genuinely bring business value.

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