RFID in museums and galleries

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I spotted this story in the Oracle Europe newsletter this week, concerning an RFID pilot at the Museo delle Origini (Museum of the Origins of Man) in Rome that allows visitors to access in-depth multimedia information about each exhibit simply by walking near it. If you associated this with Wavetrend partner ISIS’ application you can see what a big impact RFID is having in this vertical.

The Museum has implemented technology from Oracle and Intel to create an environment it calls Wi-Art, in which information about its exhibits is automatically transferred to visitors’ handheld PDAs as they approach. Relevant information is stored in an RFID tag attached to each exhibit, and is automatically displayed on the screen of a PDA equipped with an RFID tag reader when the PDA comes into range. Text-to-speech technology allows information to be ‘spoken’ to visitors with impaired vision.

The information ranges from descriptive text profiles to audio and video clips, and uses data that had been previously compiled by the museum and stored in an Oracle database. The new system allows the museum to make more of that information accessible to visitors than had been available previously, enhancing the quality and educational capacity of each museum visit. It also improves the accuracy of the classification process of archaeological finds.

The system was developed by the RFID Lab at the University of La Sapienza in Rome, which also houses the museum itself. The lab has been investigating practical applications of RFID since 2004, and now functions as a design, testing and prototyping centre where organizations can build and try out new RFID-based systems. Both the RFID Lab and the museum believe that technology applications of this kind are necessary to address increasing demand for more educational, entertaining and interactive museum experiences.

Wavetrend partner ISIS has some 40 odd installations around the world using RFID to track and trace collections when they are moved and also to protect them when in situ. Art security is now a major issue, and so ISIS has worked with one of the world’s leading galleries to develop a wireless, real-time, automated tracking, audit and art alarm system specifically for the art market – Aspects ARTS. The application works during the day when intruder alarm systems have been deactivated. Tags are attached to works of art and are in constant radio communication with sensors located out of sight in the protected areas. The tags have different functionality depending on the piece and its location. For instance, tags for art on display contain vibration sensors—if a piece is moved without authorisation a “real-time” gallery alarm is generated in the Aspects ARTS software, giving security controllers specific user-configurable information about the incident as it happens. The software can be programmed to trigger any number of 3rd party devices via the ISIS I/O unit, such as CCTV, audio-visual alarms, alpha-numeric pagers, door control or off-site monitoring.