The dashed line


I can trace my enthusiasm for the dashed line back to this poster in Norway. The poster advertises the multiple ways of submitting your tax return: via SMS, internet or post. Something resonated here, and I’m thinking more and more that the dashed line is the right way to visually expose the seams of ubiquitous computing.

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RFID books, weblogs and resources

There are a growing number of resources for RFID and related technologies, so I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the resources and reading material that I am finding valuable.

It may be updated as new things become available.

For Even


Some recommended books on RFID theory and practice.

RFID: Applications, Security, and Privacy

This is probably the best book on RFID to date, covering a wide range of issues including economics, technologies and applications. Comes highly recommended by Bruce Sterling too. It was catalysed by a workshop at MIT in 2003:

“Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is rapidly becoming ubiquitous as businesses seek to streamline supply chains and respond to mandates from key customers. But RFID and other new wireless ID technologies raise unprecedented privacy issues. RFID: Applications, Security, and Privacy covers these issues from every angle and viewpoint.”

RFID Handbook

This book covers the fundamentals and applications in contactless smart cards and identification, and gets quite deep into technology issues in RFID. Although it is primarily a technical book, full of equations and diagrams, it offers a lot of insight into the fundamentals of making this technology, as well as covering basic applications and services.

RFID Essentials

Good basic grounding for application, business and technical issues. Focused on EPC applications and logistics and includes sample pseudo code for managing RFID tasks. Read this for the groundwork before exploring the equations in the RFID Handbook above.


A hands on book for hacking RFID readers, writers and transponders. Covers lots of ‘home automation’ and security applications as examples with instructions for making complete systems. Includes a good list of simple RFID hardware for prototyping. It’s available as part of a kit with the Phidgets USB reader/writer.

Smart card manufacturing

For industrial designers and manufacturing engineers, covers in great detail how to embed microprocessors into little pieces of plastic. Great diagrams.

Internet of Things ITU report

This ITU report looks at the economics, theories and applications that are driving the development of RFID.

“Takes a look at the next step in “always on” communications, in which new technologies like RFID and smart computing promise a world of networked and interconnected devices that provide relevant content and information whatever the location of the user.”

Shaping Things

Bruce Sterling’s book is a manifesto for a more sustainable approach to design, manufacture and everyday life. It’s a fairly quick read, enjoyable and contains many ‘aha’ moments.

“Spimes are designed on screens, fabricated by digital means, and precisely tracked through space and time. They are made of substances that can be folded back into the production stream of future spimes, challenging all of us to become involved in their production.”


Katherine Albrecht & Liz McIntyre write about privacy issues in RFID, offering a stark vision of a future where everything is tracked and connected. Their tone is dramatic and their research examples are often taken out of context, but this is a useful counterpoint to RFID hype.


Adam Greenfield’s writes about the likely emergence of ubiquitous computing and the social, cultural and ethical problems that may emerge in it’s design and use. Particularly relevant here are thoughts on seamfulness, on mechanisms of payment ‘dissolving in behaviour’ and some great musings on the embodied significance of the Octopus card in Hong Kong.

“The age of ubiquitous computing is here: a computing without computers, where information processing has diffused into everyday life, and virtually disappeared from view. What does this mean to those of us who will be encountering it? How will it transform our lives? And how will we learn to make wise decisions about something so hard to see?”

Ambient Findability

Peter Morville’s book on the ‘design of findable objects’ takes ideas from wayfinding, the web and information architecture, particularly around search, and puts forward ideas on how these might be applied in ubiquitous computing environments.

“Discusses the Internet, GIS, and other network technologies that are coming together to make unlimited findability possible. He explores how the melding of these innovations impacts society, since Web access is now a standard requirement for successful people and businesses.”


There are many weblogs on RFID being built upon the recent hype around RFID in the supply chain, and they mostly offer industry focused information. Below I’ve listed most of the weblogs I have found, including some that are not about RFID, but cover overlapping ground. The weblogs I find valuable have comments.

The Pondering Primate

High volume and interesting weblog by Scott Shaffer that looks at all of the emerging technologies and services that attempt to connect digital information into physical space.

“As the Internet becomes mobile through the cell phone, I realized the physical world would merge with the electronic one and a tsunami of opportunities would be created. I constantly search for companies and news associated with mobile search, mobile marketing and mobile commerce.”

Bar Code Nerds

People obsessed with barcodes and the things you can do with them, and they really are nerds:

“You know what pisses me off? I’m in the store. I buy 5 different flavors of fruit leather. They are different colors in different packages. Different SKUs with different GTINs, hence each has a different UPC barcode. So what does the cashier do? Scan one and hit the ‘repeat X5’ key. I realize all she’s doing is harvesting the price. To hell with real time inventory tracking.”

Barcode Blog

Less commentary and more links to other news sources, but it’s good to see a balanced view between technologies like barcodes and RFID i.e. not so much hype about RFID.

Semapedia weblog

A weblog about developments in the Semapedia community:

“We invite you to create Semapedia-Tags which are in fact cellphone-readable physical hyperlinks. You can create such Tags easily yourself by choosing and pasting a Wikipedia URL into the form above. Once created, you put the Tags up at their according physical location.”


Simon Woodside writes about the development of semacode: a 2D barcode system that is an open platform, and plugs into many of the important building blocks of the internet and mobile platforms.

“Semacode’s software provides the tools necessary to build applications that combine aspects of the virtual world into the real world. It works by combining existing standardized elements — camera phones, optical barcodes, URLs — into an integrated system.”

Contactless News

Lots of news and articles on developments in contactless payment including smart cards and NFC. The articles go behind a subscription service after 60 days, so make sure you get relevant quotes while they are still there…

Spychips blog

Albrecht and McIntyre, authors of Spychips rampage against RFID and forefront privacy issues with auto ID and tracking technologies.

RFID Innovationlab

A Danish RFID weblog from people at the Innovation Lab in Katrinebjerg that covers a lot of ground.

RFID in Japan

Shin’ichi Konomi writes about developments in RFID in Japan. This blog has uncovered numerouse interesting user-centred developments in RFID and barcode technology as well as unusual and quirky uses.

RFID Law Blog

This weblog could be really good (and it gets it kind of right in the legislation category) but it tends to re-publish other news stories when it could be providing useful insight and commentary on important legal issues.


A low volume but very smart and focused weblog, looking at privacy issues in passports, credit cards, gaming and other alternative uses.

RFID in libraries

I trust the librarians to get it right.

RFID Journal

The RFID industry authority, with events, news, features and case studies. Very industry focused.

RFID Gazette

High volume weblog with lots of industry news.

Other weblogs: Payments news, RFID Lowdown, RFID Times, RFID Today, RFID Detail, The RFID Weblog, Using RFID news, RFID Update.

Online resources

Mediamatic Reader on RFID

This reader compiles a number of resources on the technical and philosophical aspects of RFID.

Security & Privacy in RFID Systems

A large resource of technical papers on security and privacy. You can subscribe to a mailing list to be notified when new papers are added (Could we have an RSS feed too please)!

“The goal of this page is to reference works related to security and privacy in RFID systems. The bibliography contains references toward refereed papers published in journals and conference proceedings, as well as technical reports and thesis. It is updated on an irregular basis depending on the flow of papers published in the domain.”

RFID Primer

There are numerous guides and primers on RFID around the web, but this is perhaps the best, from AIM the global association of everything Identifiable.

Internet of things: Working bibliography

This Internet of things bibliography compiled by Anne Galloway is a good place to start looking at the wider implications of RFID as seen by industry and (primarily ubiquitous computing) academia.

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Upcoming events

Two upcoming events in New York:

Identity and Identification in a Networked World

This is a free symposium open to all on the 29-30 September 2006 organised by graduates at the NYU School of Law.

Increasingly, who we are is represented by key bits of information scattered throughout the data-intensive, networked world. Online and off, these core identifiers mediate our sense of self, social interactions, movements through space, and access to goods and services. There is much at stake in designing systems of identification and identity management, deciding who or what will be in control of them, and building in adequate protection for our bits of identity permeating the network. This symposium will examine critical and controversial issues surrounding socio-technical systems of identity, identifiability and identification. It will showcase emerging scholarship of graduate students at the cutting edge of humanities, social sciences, artists, systems design & engineering, philosophy, law, and policy to work towards a clearer understanding of these complex problems, and build foundations for future collaborative work.

Registration and preliminary program

Architecture and Situated Technologies

First found via Anne, this October 2006 event is being organised by the The Institute for Distributed Creativity, Center for Virtual Architecture and the Architectural League of New York. There doesn’t seem to be a website or a confirmed date yet, but lots of distributed discussion going on the iDC mailing list

“This symposium, organized around the notion of an ‘encounter,’ will attempt to articulate new research vectors, sites of practice, and working methods for the confluence of architecture and situated technologies. What opportunities and dilemmas does a world of networked objects and spaces pose for architecture, art, and computing? How might this evolving relation between people and ‘things’ alter the way we occupy, navigate, and inhabit the built environment? What post-optimal design strategies and tactics might we propose for an age of responsive environments, smart materials, embodied interaction, and participatory networks? What is the status of the material object in a world privileging networked relations between ‘things’? How do distinctions between space and place change within these networked media ecologies? Given the explosive market proliferation of mobile communications and wireless networks, what distinguishes the emerging urban sociality they enable? How do the social uses of these technologies, including (non-) affective giving, destabilize rationalized ‘use-case scenarios’ designed around the generic consumer? These are just a few of the questions we want to address. Through a combination of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions, the symposium will attempt to stage a set of encounters between invited participants, an audience encouraged to participate, and the City of New York. This event will be podcast and a publication will follow.”

Read more

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RFID & the internet of things

Julian Bleecker, Arie Altena and I will be participating at the Mediamatic workshop on RFID & The Internet of Things, 11-13 September in Amsterdam.

If RFID becomes an open web-based platform, and users can tag, share, and contribute content to the digital existence of their own places and objects, we can truly speak of an Internet of Things. This opens perpectives for new sustainability scenario’s, for new relations between people and the stuff they have, and for other locative applications. The participants of this workshop will develop critical, utopian or nightmarish concepts for an Internet of Things in a hands-on way. Ideas can range from scripts for small new rituals to outlines of societal changes of epic scale. Prototypes can be tested with the workshop tools The Symbolic Table or the Nokia3220 phone with RFID reader.

The previous Mediamatic workshops on RFID have been extremely productive and interesting, see their RFID Reader for the previous workshops and an overview of alternative practice in RFID.

Radio frequency identification is a technology that is now rapidly developing. A growing number of logistical companies sees the advantages and possibilities of RFID for managing large bodies of objects. But to what uses can this technology be applied that are not in the logistical realm? How can it serve and/or change society and human interaction? How does it change the concept of information and information networks as we know them today? This reader compiles a number of resources on the technical and philosophical aspects of RFID.

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Mobile Interaction with the Real World

My short position paper “A graphic language for touch-based interactions” has been accepted to the Mobile HCI 2006 workshop Mobile Interaction with the Real World. The workshop aims to

“develop an understanding of how mobile devices (particularly mobile phones, smartphones and PDAs) can be used as interaction devices. [...] we aim to develop new ideas on how mobile phones can be exploited for new forms of interaction with the environment.”

The other papers at the workshop look interesting:

  • Telling a Story on a Tag: The Importance of Markers’ Visual Design for Real World Applications, Enrico Costanza (MIT Media Lab, USA), Mirja Leinss (Harvard GSD, USA)
  • Mobile Pointing & Input System for Eye Glass Display, Youngjin Hong, Sanggoog Lee, Yongbeom Lee, Sangryong Kim (Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, South Korea)
  • User Perceptions on Mobile Interaction with Visual and RFID Tags, Sara Belt (University of Oulu, Finland), Dan Greenblatt, Jonna Häkkilä (Nokia Multimedia, Finland), Kaj Mäkelä (Nokia Research Center, Finland)
  • Hovering: Visualising RFID Hyperlinks in a Mobile Phone, Pasi Välkkynen (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland)
  • The Mobile Phone as a Universal Interaction Device - Are There Limits?, Christof Roduner (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Alternative RFID based Architectures for Mobile HCI with Physical Objects, Stefano Puglia (WLAB Ltd., Italy), Andrea Vitaletti (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy)
  • Automatic Composition in Service Browsing Environments, Paul Wisner (Nokia Research Center, USA)
  • Constructing assemblies for purposeful interactions, Pollini Alessandro, Grönvall Erik (University of Siena, Italy)
  • Finding the Path from Here to There: Some Questions about Physical-Mobile Design Processes, Amnon Dekel (The Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel)
  • Understanding Real World Practices: a Place-Centred Study of Mobile Workers, Darragh Murphy, Iride Bartolucci, Luigina Ciolfi (University of Limerick, Ireland)
  • Public Display Advertising Based on Bluetooth Device Presence, Matthew Sharifi, Terry Payne, Esther David (University of Southampton, UK)
  • Exploiting incidental interactions between mobile devices, Jamie Lawrence, Terry Payne, Raul V. Kripalani (University of Southampton, UK)
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RFID in Seoul: first impressions

I’m in Seoul, South Korea looking at the use of mobile technology and RFID.

The first encounter with RFID came only an hour or so off the plane by the Metro ticketing machines, a kind lady showed a mobile phone strap that contained a T Money card:

First encounter with RFID

Within a few minutes I had a charged up T Money card and figured out the over-designed ticket gates. Quite good for a totally new system with new languages and currency.

T Money

Later, at a ‘Family Mart’, there was a hastily placed payment terminal that offered payment for mobile phones.

The touch indicator is very HAL-like, I imagine it glows softly red when a payment is made. More to investigate…

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Reboot 8: Mobile presence

The thing that struck me most at Reboot 8 was the emergence of the mobile as a platform. In particular, this platform is finally allowing the kinds of 3rd party and community development that we have been lacking for the last few years. The first signs of this are simple modifications to existing applications and in particular the addition of presence.

Jyri Engeström showed simple but effective interfaces for what he terms ‘social peripheral vision’, the ability to glance at information about a social circle and to gain an awareness of other’s plans in both space and time. Simple additions to the current phone interface (like the address book and calendar) can show a lot of contextual information. Jyri is working on Jaiku that is still under wraps, but talking with Mika Raento gave some clues as to what this might be. Mika has worked on interesting applications like ContextContacts at the University of Helsinki.

Marko Ahtisaari talked about the Seven Challenges to our Shared Mobile Future, and in particular the overall goal of reaching the next 2 billion mobile phone users. It’s clear that this future is not just about Nokia’s multimedia computers, but will also be about making simple voice and text experiences more beautiful and engaging.

Chris Heathcote presented a ‘manifesto’ for the mobile internet; design patterns and approaches for the internet on mobile devices. He demonstrated the new Mobile web server as a universal tool for things like presence. This brings with it interesting issues like serving data with a device that may be out of coverage or batteries.

Finally there was a quick demo of Plazes, and the new Plazes mobile client beta that looks very impressive. It uses cell ID to share user context, only when instructed to. Given that Plazes already has an active user-community its possible that this will be the first widely used mobile presence application.

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Workshop: Near field interactions

This is a call for proposals for a workshop on user-centred interactions with the internet of things at Nordichi 2006, October 14 and 15, 2006 in Oslo, Norway.

The user-centred Internet of Things

The so-called ‘Internet of Things’ is a vision of the future of networked things that share a record of their interactions with context, people and other objects. The evolution of networking to include objects occupying space and moving within the physical world presents an urgent design challenge for new kinds of networked social practice. The challenge for design is to overcome the current overarching emphasis on business and technology that has largely ignored practices that fall outside of operational efficiency scenarios.

What is imminently needed is a user-centred approach to understand the physical, contextual and social relationships between people and the networked things they interact with.

The mobile device as early enabler

The mobile phone is likely to play a key role in the early adoption of the internet of things. Mobile devices offer ubiquitous networks and interfaces, enabling otherwise offline objects at the edges of the network. Near Field Communication (NFC) is a mobile technology that has been designed to integrate networked services into physical space and objects. NFC introduces a sense of ‘touch’, where interactions between devices are initiated by physical proximity.

In use, the mobile phone brings with it a history of personal and social activities and contexts. It is in this evolution that we see user-agency and social motivation emerging as an interesting area within the internet of things.

Workshop goals

In this workshop we intend to build knowledge around the hands-on problems and opportunities of designing user-centred interactions with networked objects. Through a process of ‘making things’ we will look closely at the kinds of interactions we may want to design with networked objects, and what roles the mobile phone may play in this.

We will focus on the design of simple, effective and innovative interactions between mobile phones and physical objects, rather than focusing on technical or network issues.

The primary questions for the workshop are:

  • What kinds of common interactions will emerge as networked objects become everyday?
  • What role will the mobile phone have to play in these interactions?
  • How do we encourage playful, experimental and exploratory use of networked things?

    Some secondary questions are:

  • What interaction models can we bring to the internet of things? Do the fields of embodied interaction, tangible, social, ubiquitous or pervasive computing cover the required ground for designers?
  • What new kinds of social practices could emerge out of the possibilities presented by networked things? 
  • How will the physical form of everyday objects and spaces be transformed by networks and near field interactions? How this would be reflected in users’ behavior?
  • How can the design of physical objects help in overcoming potential information or interaction overload, and how does search or findability change when in a physical context?
  • How can we move beyond commonsensical features such as object activation or findability?
  • What kind of user-communities will co-opt the technology and how will they hack, adjust and re-form it for their needs?

    Workshop structure

    Each workshop day will begin with a keynote presentation from invited experts. On the first day, participants will each give a short presentation of their position paper, no longer than 5 minutes.

    Then groups of 3-4 people, each with different skills and backgrounds will then work on concepts, scenarios and prototypes. Prototypes may take the form of physical models, scenarios or enactments. We encourage the use of our wood, plastic and rapid prototyping workshops to create physical prototypes of selected concepts. We will provide workshop assistants for the creation of physical models.


    The outcomes should be in a range of implementation styles allowing for a variety of outputs that speaks to a wide audience. A report will be written on the workshop, and published on the Touch project website and in other relevant channels.

    Call for participation

    The workshop is open to participants from human factors, mobile technology, social science, interaction and industrial design. Practitioners and those with industrial experience are strongly encouraged. Prior research work on embodied interaction, social and tangible computing would be particularly relevant. Participants will be selected based on their relevance to the workshop, and the overall balance of the group. Space is limited to 25 participants.

    Call for short position papers

    Application is by position paper no longer than two pages. The position paper can be visual or experimental in design and content. The themes should cover an issue that is relevant to the design of interactions with everyday objects.

    Deadline for papers is 1 August, selected participants will be notified on the 9 August. The workshop itself is October 14 and 15, 2006.

    Papers and any questions should be submitted to timo (at) elasticspace (dot) com before 1 August.


    Timo Arnall is a designer and researcher at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design (AHO). Timo’s research looks at practices around ubiquitous computing in urban space. At the moment his work focuses on the personal and social use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies, looking for potential interactions with objects and city spaces through mobile devices. Previously his research looked at flyposting and stickering in public space, suggesting possible design strategies for combining physical marking and digital spatial annotation. Timo leads the research project Touch at AHO, looking at the use of mobile technology and Near Field Communication.

    Julian Bleecker is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication and an Assistant Professor in the Interactive Media Division, part of the USC School of Cinema-Television. Bleecker’s work focuses on emerging technology design, research and development, implementation, concept innovation, particularly in the areas of pervasive media, mobile media, social networks and entertainment. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in computer-human interaction. His doctoral dissertation from the University of California, Santa Cruz is on technology, entertainment and culture.

    Nicolas Nova is a Ph.D. student at the CRAFT (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) working on the CatchBob! project. His current research is directed towards the understanding of how people use location-awareness information when collaborating in mobile settings, with a peculiar focus on pervasive games. After an undergraduate degree in cognitive sciences, he completed a master in human-computer interaction and educational technologies at TECFA (University of Geneva, Switzerland). His work is at the crossroads of cognitive psychology/ergonomics and human-computer interaction; relying on those disciplines to gain better understanding of how people use technology such as mobile and ubiquitous computing.

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