RFID use in museums was the subject of an interesting paper at Museums and the Web 2009.
Basically RFIDs are being explored for use in two broad applications at present in museums, one being content delivery for visitors, the other being asset tracking of objects. We are pursuing the latter route with Smarttrack, which we have established to provide software and hardware solutions in this area. RFIDs provide significant benefits over bar codes as they do not require line of sight for reading, can hold a lot more data, and will allow automatic tracking and finding of objects.
The other opportunity is in providing content to visitors, principally through providing them with access to collection information on their PDAs read from a RFID.
This paper by Tim Baldwin at the University of Melbourne combined both uses, detailing a project run at the Melbourne Museum. Passive RFID tags were given to visitors and they were asked to have them read at certain points around the exhibition, thus recording what they visited. The idea is this can then provide the opportunity to enhance museum visits through personalising information, such as profiling the visitor to make recommendations for future activity at the museum.
My view is that the way forward is not to make it too complicated. The green fields opportunities for the use of RFIDs in museums are enormous, but let’s get them up and running in tried and tested areas before we try and push the technology too far, and risk alienating key stakeholders, such as collection managers, before the technology is proven in these new areas.
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