Stupid Use for Crazy Technology

RFID Tags are all around us. This got me thinking, why not use them around the house for cataloging and keeping track of various items that tend to get lost? I’m sure someone has had the idea before me, but I’d like to give it a shot, and attempt at a practical application for this technology: The Library.

Now, like most adults of my demographic, I own a ton of media. This media comes in all forms, digital, paperback, hardback, DVDs, CDs, CD-ROMs, etc. Keeping the digital information in check is not that hard, mainly because I maintain strict standards on my home Linux-based content server. But what about the other stuff?

Well, if one were to take a quick look around my “office”, one would notice that I’m not doing a very good job of keeping any of this other stuff in check. In fact, if one didn’t know better, I bet one would think that a caveman lived here.

So what does this have to do with RFIDs? Well, if you don’t see the connection here, then you need to be brained let me elaborate.

Past Systems
Let me start with past systems that I’ve attempted to use.

The first is disc notebooks and bookshelves. While these are simple ways to get similar objects in one place, they lack a good bit of finesse, and the hassle it takes to add a new item to the set makes it all the more likely for a system of this sort to fail. Also, when you take a DVD out to watch it, what are the chances that it will be put back into the proper place after use?

This leads us to our second system: the stack. Now, as much as it pains me, I have to admit that I do fall into this strange pattern of stacking CDs and DVDs in unnecessarily disorganized fashions and locations. This can lead to scratching, cracking and even altogether loss of the data that is on these disks. The same goes for books. What’s my problem that I can’t simply return the book to its proper place on the shelf? Well, if you said laziness, you’re probably right.

The third system that I attempted to institute was a web-based application for keeping track of my various pieces of media. While this worked admirably, and it bridged the gap between digital and physical media, it suffered from two main obstacles:

  1. Physical Location Tracking
  2. Time Consumption

How am I supposed to keep track of all these things and where I left them? If they’re in a searchable database, it’s easy enough to discover if I own such an object, but who knows where it’s gone off to? And who wants to sit down and copy ISBN numbers and other identifying characteristics in a system that is inherently flawed?

Solution?
Well, what’s the solution, and how do RFID tags come in handy? Truthfully, there wouldn’t be a system that took care of the time-consuming cataloging efforts that are inherent to any system that isn’t set in motion before a library begins. But at least we can make the first bullet point obsolete.

If we tagged each piece of media, every novel, DVD and CD, we could easily locate their whereabouts using a combination of the RFID technology and an intelligently designed database.

First, we would still have to go through all the trouble of tagging each piece of media and cataloging it in our database system. This could be made easier with programs such as Delicious Library. Delicious Library can use a webcam to scan the barcode of your book, DVD or CD and locate it through online databases and catalog its information accordingly. This would indeed speed up the process over hand-cataloging every piece.

Location was a big deal with the first system, and we would like to eliminate that by adding a “last known whereabouts” field to our database. For the digital information, this would be very simple, as it wouldn’t move much within the already efficient storage solution.

Using the “last known whereabouts” field, we could start our search immediately with the location in this field, and coupled with the RFID locator, we could easily find the material we needed. Beyond the original room, however, this could be an issue. “Last known whereabouts” could be very useful in a lending library-type situation. You could easily just enter the name of the person checking the material out, and you could set up notifications, or discover who has the material on a moment’s notice.

Ok, so this system isn’t perfect, but I just wanted to put it out there for future reference, or hilariously silly comments. Think about it; this would be really awesome in your “house of tomorrow”.