I See You

They’re selling this little aluminum box as a wallet. Apparently, you can run over this wallet with a truck and run water on it, not that I’ve ever had the urge to do that to a wallet. They also said that the aluminum case blocked radio waves and kept unauthorized people from reading your RFID Visa and MasterCards.  I’m sure this appeals to those sitting at home with tin foil on their heads to keep the government from reading their minds.

Actually, we’re getting buried in RFID stuff these days. RFID means Radio Frequency IDentification and it’s being used in enhanced state licenses, passports, automobile ignition keys, and the venerable electronic door locks. They’re in a lot more things, but there’s the obvious ones. Actually, one more would round out the high rate of use devices; RFID in toys, used to make different toys in the same line react to one another. My wife has a Wall-E and Eva robot pair that get all excited when they’re close to each other. We have to keep them across the room from one another or keep changing batteries.

A nice lady from the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing Program stopped by to explain the benefit that I had been qualified for, and give me the parameters of the program. We chatted about other things, among which was mentioning that I had just picked up a bunch of blank RFID key fobs and card chip, along with a reader/writer. We had been chatting about garage door openers and how a remote operated door was a boon to disabled people moving about in chairs. I pointed out that I could easily make a device that would recognize a specific person by a tag they wore or kept on their person. The device then opening doors, cabinets, whatever. I also said that I could make a light switch you just needed to wave to, and it would change to on or change to off with each swipe. It wouldn’t need light to see the vet wave.

She got very excited about my ideas for using RFID to make life easier for a disabled veteran. To me, it is just a logical extension of a pretty simple technology. I had purchased the materials I did so I could hook into the existing overhead door. On a few occasions, guests ended up accidentally locking themselves out, and RFID seemed a good idea. I could pass out little fobs to everyone, and if they needed in the house, they could simply swipe the fob over a sensor plate mounted by the door. It would electronically “push” the door opening button. The idea can be exported to light or appliance switches, or to engage little servos to open cupboard doors a little to make them easier to negotiate. Getting carried away, I told her I could even make one recognize a particular person and turn on the shower and adjust it to their favorite temperature. It’s true, but it requires a fancy and very pricey hot water control setup. So, I could to that for really rich veterans, if such a thing exists.

RFID can be used for all sorts of things, and as time goes by, it is being used for more and more, not unlike its step-cousin, bluetooth. It’s amazing all the things done with bluetooth radio now. Connect your phone to your TV to watch movies, connect your speakers to your stereo with no wires. Accept print jobs from any number of bluetooth devices like phones, tablets, computers, and ebook readers. We rely on wireless communications for a tremendous lot, which means that we are constantly bathed in radio waves. Yet even within the din of radio noise, our devices can pick one another out according to their pairing in the wink of an eye, which is what makes short range radio such a viable tool. The RFID is merely one use of microradio. But it is also much like a Leggo block. It can be snapped into place quite simply in most cases, and bring greater convenience or utility to whatever it was added to.

I suspect that if you thought about it as you stroll around your home, you can think up places where your presence being recognized causes something to happen –would be a help. The thing is, RFID kits are available in different places and they aren’t very hard to work with. I bought a pair of kits that include 10 key fobs, plus the reader/writer, plus the attractive door panel (which also accepts typed passwords) came with instructions for $12, postage paid to my door. That gave me 20 total keys and two separate reader panels for under $25. I’d say that was pretty cheap. To use it on a garage door would require as well a 12 volt power supply and some medium gauge wire –like speaker wire. It’s all low voltage and low current.  For about $20 you could make a door accessible because of RFID. For those still unsure, remember that the Internet is filled with examples.

Anyway, I didn’t really think that my ideas for RFID were all the special, and that’s what I was thinking as a truck rolled over the aluminum wallet on television. No big deal. Then again, I carry my wallet in my back pocket, and just thinking about that thing wedging its way through my butt cheek was a deal breaker. No sale. Uh uh. If I am that concerned, I will just put tinfoil in my wallet and be done with it. But I’m not all that concerned.