RFID and the everyday

This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating.

Many of us have experienced RFID as a way of paying for tickets on public transport or gaining access to places. But are there other ways in which RFID, through things, places and behaviour, may become part of everyday experience?

RFID chips are cheap and tiny, they can be embedded in just about anything, lasting forever without a battery. But in most situations RFIDs are also extremely limited in range, capacity and susceptible to being broken and hacked. This is the cheap and dirty end of ubiquitous technology.

What kinds of interfaces or identities could everyday things have? How might identifiable objects affect our social relationships and how might people hack or subvert these affects? What kinds of needs and desires exist around everyday things and how might these change?

Some possibilities that have been explored in the past include household objects as interfaces, urban screens that display custom media or tokens or gifts that contain personal information (see references).

Your process may involve field work, observations, material or personal object studies and interviews. You might want to create a series of scenarios around everyday behaviour from these studies that others could build upon.


Personal, Portable, Pedestrian Mobile Phones in Japanese Life. Edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda.

Publications by Rich Ling. Lots of research into the use of mobile technology from a sociologists perspective, with a particular focus on Norwegian culture.

Institute For The Future on RFID Downloadable PDFs on the future of RFID in everyday life.

Galloway, Anne. 2004. Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing
and the City.
Cultural Studies, Volume 18, Numbers 2-3, pp. 384-408. Link

Mobilities in everyday life and On the persistence of the everyday. Anne Galloway.

33 Ways RFID Has Invaded Your Life Lots of current and near-future uses for RFID.

Cool, Surprising and just Plain Scary: 51 Futuristic Uses for RFID A good list of current and near-future uses of RFID, read through the list to get beyond the interaction design clichés.

What is the problem?. Good reasons why many might not want RFID in everyday life.

Frequently asked questions about NFC Mentions of everyday activities, mainly transactions, in this document from the NFC Forum.

Greenfield, Adam. Everyware. The dawning age of ubiquitous computing., 2006.

Feldman, A. Tapia, E.M. Sadi, S. Maes, P. Schmandt, C. ReachMedia: on-the-move interaction with everyday objects. Ambient Intelligence Group, MIT Media Lab., Cambridge, MA, USA. PDF

Carvey, A., Gouldstone, J., Vedurumudi, P., Whiton, A., and Ishii, H. 2006. Rubber shark as user interface. In CHI ‘06 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Montréal, Québec, Canada, April 22 - 27, 2006). CHI ‘06. ACM Press, New York, NY, 634-639. PDF

Kindberg, T., Barton, J., Morgan, J., Becker, G., Caswell, D., Debaty, P., Gopal, G., Frid, M., Krishnan, V., Morris, H., Schettino, J., Serra, B., and Spasojevic, M. 2002. People, places, things: web presence for the real world. Mob. Netw. Appl. 7, 5 (Oct. 2002), 365-376. Link

Read more about these design briefs.

Related things:

  1. Everyware icons (visualising ubicomp situations) In December 2005 Adam Greenfield asked me to work with him on icon concepts for his book Everyware. Here is Adam’s description of his book: “The age of ubiquitous computing is here: a computing......
  2. The universal controller This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. Much research in ubiquitous computing focuses on the idea of a universal controller; a device that can adapt from......
  3. Touch as interaction medium This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and elsewhere the ‘swipe’ or ‘tap’ is already a common interaction for paying......
  4. RFID in Seoul: High-end smartcards The contactless ticketing and payment system of choice in Seoul is called T-Money. Seoul was the first city to use Mifare standard smartcards in 1996. Although retail payment doesn’t seem to have taken off......
  5. Place and product-based collaborative filtering In March 2006 fourth year interaction design students at AHO conducted intense one-week investigations into Near Field Communication in a project called Touchable services. See more student projects. Jon Olav Eikenes, Guilia Schneider, Bjørn......

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  1. By Touch design briefs · Touch on 3 July 2007 at 13:22

    [...] RFID and the everyday [...]

  2. [...] See also references for RFID and the everyday [...]

  3. By Bowl: Token-based media for children · Touch on 1 September 2008 at 21:33

    [...] Sneve Martinussen, Jørn Knutsen and Timo Arnall and investigated two design briefs: RFID and the everyday and Playful RFID. The concept, technicalities, process and results are described in detail in the [...]

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