WW-108 -- Mobile Phones and RFID tags ・ A Brave New Synergy?

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J@pan Inc presents the Wireless Watch Newsletter:

W I R E L E S S W A T C H

Commentary on the World of Wireless in Japan
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Wireless Watch Newsletter
Issue No. 108
Thursday, October 2, 2003
TOKYO

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CONTENTS

++ Viewpoint: Mobile Phones and RFID tags ・ A Brave New Synergy?

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++ Viewpoint: Mobile phones and RFID tags ・ A Brave New Synergy?

Location-based information services enter a new era in Japan with
the introduction of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags.
These are small devices that transmit information over a short
range.

Two luxurious shopping areas in Tokyo, Roppongi Hills and
Ginza, form the stage where the synergy between mobile phones
and RFID tags is now being tested.

People participating in the pilot will receive a thumbsize clickable
device with an RFID that can be attached as a strap to their mobile
phones. While shopping, the users can ask for promotional information
by clicking on the button.

The RFID will then transmit the users' ID numbers to a nearby access
point equipped with a tag reader. After the identification is complete,
the system replies with an email to the users' mobile phones --
through the cell network.

The pilot in Ginza will be done by KDDI with 500 pilot users, while
DoCoMo is in charge of the 4,500 users to be tested in Roppongi Hills.

Although the idea of testing the synergy between mobile phones and
RFID tags is very interesting, there are several issues that must
be resolved before such a system can be deployed on a larger scale.

At this moment, the individual user must have two very different
devices: a mobile phone and the RFID device.

If the outcome of the pilots is successful, the carriers might
decide to integrate the RFID tag with the mobile device.

But RFID is not the only candidate technology. Bluetooth allows
for two-way communication -- yet it remains more expensive.

Infrared communication is possible -- but the user has to point
to the access terminal, and security might be a problem.

For cost and efficiency, the same technology must be used
by all the carriers. Because the reach of the RFID tags is
limited, a large number of access terminals is required to
obtain sufficient coverage in a shopping area.

Expensive investment in access terminals will probably prevent
the wide acceptance of this new technology by shop owners.

Still, the advantage is that RFID tags are cheap and
relatively easy to use, as they only transmit the unique
ID number to a nearby access point. Using the mobile network
to get immediate responses -- information from products to a
user痴 handset -- could also be helpful in logistics and
other areas, where RFID tags will soon be introduced.

With these field studies, DoCoMo and KDDI will gain important
feedback on the technological possibilities of the future --
and on their customers' demands and experiences of it.

-- Arjen van Blokland

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STAFF
Written by Arjen van Blokland; edited by Roland Kelts
(editors@japaninc.com)

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