In an article to appear on November 15, the New Scientist tells us that the 500 attendants of the last Pop!Tech conference were carrying intelligent badges to put around their necks. EurekAlert! has released a preview of this article, "Hello, will you be my friend?"
Here is what look like these smart badges, called nTAGS, distributed by the nTAG Interactive company.
Now, let's look at how work these interactive computers.
Called an nTag, each delegate's device was pre-programmed with the conference schedule, which could be displayed on a small screen on the front of the tag, as well as with personal information supplied earlier to the organisers. This included the wearer's contact details, employment history, their professional interests and personal hobbies.
The tags communicate with each other via an infrared link to find out whether their owners have much in common. When an nTag finds a good match, it does what any good party host would do and alerts its owner to the other person.
Here is an illustration of the process (Credit: nTAG Interactive).
But what's inside these devices?
The relatively simple machines run on four AAA batteries and have 128 kilobytes of RAM, and 64 kilobytes of flash memory- about enough to store 60 pages of text as an electronic file. As well as communicating with each other via infrared links, nTags also use an RFID (radio-frequency identity) chip to talk to a central server. This allows delegates to download other people's details to an email address of their choice.
Renting these devices doesn't come cheap.
The service costs between $40 and $100 per tag per day, depending on the length and complexity of an event, but that includes peripheral equipment such as the central server and any customised services designed to get people mixing.
As usual with this kind of technology, some people were impressed and enthusiasts while others are considering them as an invasion of privacy.
Source: David Appell, New Scientist, via EurekAlert!, November 12, 2003
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