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Oxfam goes digital with RFID scanning tech

Oxfam goes digital with RFID scanning tech

The Tales of Things site tracks the story of each item donated to the Oxfam Manchester charity shop via RFID tags.

A Manchester-based branch of the Oxfam charity shops has entered the 21st century in a big way, marking its donations with RFID and QR tags in order to allow its items to tell their stories.

According to coverage over on Wired.co.uk, the store has teamed up with TOTeM - The Tales of Things and Electronic Memory group comprised of members of various UK universities - to fit all items in the store with trackable ID tags along with the technology to make use of them to store 'stories' about each item.

The shop will include a jailbroken iPhone which has been equipped with an RFID reader along with an Android-based handset paired to a Bluetooth reader, both of which will be offered to visitors who want to see the 'stories' attached to each item. When the tags are scanned, the user will be taken to a website where they can read and post messages linked to each item - a virtual history made up of posts by each of the users who have scanned the item's tag, including the person who originally donated the item.

If the Android or iPhone handset is in use, you can use your own smartphone to interact with the project too: as well as the contactless RFID tags, each item in the shop will be marked with a QR Code 2D tag which can be scanned using your smartphone's camera plus one of a range of freely available scanning packages.

The idea behind the project - other than getting the hip, geeky set to have a browse around the inside of a charity shop and bring their disposable income with them - is to attempt to get people thinking about the sentimental value of items, rather than just the monetary value. With each item being able to store information about how it came to be donated - and with a large proportion of the stock in an average charity shop having come from a deceased family member's estate - Oxfam and TOTeM could really get people thinking with this project.

The scheme is powered by TOTeM's Tales of Things site, which is live and available for submissions - of anything, not just items for sale in Oxfam - now.

Do you believe that TOTeM's plans to attach a story to every object is a laudable aim? Will you be heading to the Oxfam shop to try out the technology for yourself? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

2 Comments

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mi1ez 13th May 2010, 09:49 Quote
Can't see those handsets lasting long!
It's a nice idea in theory, but how many people are actually going to bring a story with their donations? It kinda loses it's sentiment if it's a story about a different, albeit identical object.
Are they going to need extra staff to police the devices? these shops can get busy enough at the best of times!
lacuna 13th May 2010, 09:52 Quote
An interesting idea, just a shame Oxfam is so expensive -often more expensive to buy items in there than it is to get them new!
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