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First experience with RFID Tags

I had my first experience with RFID Tags today.

If you don't know what an RFID tag is, see the Wikipedia article.

Now I've been pretty intimidated by the privacy implications of this new technology. The thought that someone could drive by my house with an RFID scanner and instantly have a very good idea of who I am and what I do is kind of a scary-now-but-not-scary-when-used-in-real-life kind of thing, like how Mapquest was initially a scary thing because it would actually GIVE you driving directions to ANYONE's house. (Now it's just a course of daily activity.) So RFID has scared me a bit. But today, I got my first taste of the ease of actually using RFID in real life.

Carrie sent me on a little errand to the library to pick up an audio book for her. I wasn't exactly bothered, but the prospect of standing in line at the library while I had so many other oh-so-important activities to do (like playing on the Internet), well, let's just say lines don't totally thrill me. I mean, you can meet some interesting people in lines, and sometimes there are interesting things to see in lines, but I digress...

Anyway, I walked into the library, found her book on the reserve/pick-up shelf, and was taking it to the line at the check-out counter, when a computer terminal to my right caught my attention.

Self-checkout read a sign over the computer.

Self-checkout at the library? And there's no line? Hmmmm....

So I walked up to the terminal. On the screen, it said "scan your card below". So I scanned Carrie's card. It asked me to place the item I was checking out on the grey rubber pad. I thought that I was doing this to remove the magnetism that they attach to items to prevent them from walking out the door. So I slid it around on the gray pad, and the item she checked out showed up on the screen.

At the bottom of the screen it said "You may check out up to four more items."

Right underneath that was a little touch button, saying "finished?"

I touched "Finished".

"Your Receipt is printing. Have a nice day."

I took the receipt, and I was out the door. What I thought was going to take 5 minutes took 30 seconds.

Pretty cool.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still concerned about the lack-of-privacy-implications of RFID, but I could see it becoming not-so-scary very quickly, simply because it's such a cool technology providing convenience like this. Imagine going to Wal-Mart or King Soopers or wherever, and your Credit Card has an RFID tag in it, as does every item you purchase in the store.

You get to the front of the store, and instead of standing in line, you just walk out the door. It's all been charged already when you walked through the scanner at the door.


Maybe it's not-so-scary in a MapQuest/Google Earth(big-brother) kind of way.

It's amazing what we're sometimes willing to give up in exchange for convenience.

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