Adding tales to ordinary things

Thu, Sep 15, 2011, 01:00

INTERNET:SCIENTISTS IN London are developing the latest thing in internet-based services. It involves building a social network for objects that will allow clothes and art works, bus stops and even Tasmanian Devils to communicate from their own online profiles.

“I view it as a mix of Facebook, the Antiques Roadshowand eBay,” explained Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith of University College London. He also describes it as the internet of things that allows objects to “communicate” with the person buying them.

“Using simple technology on an iPhone we have made the object talk,” he told a session yesterday at the festival of science in Bradford. His research group has already built all the computer-based “back end science” needed to accomplish this and has 6,000 objects that have their own web address and a story to tell.

“Every object in the world can now have its own website.”

The research group approached an Oxfam shop, asking if they could take it over for a week and bring the project to life. Those dropping off objects had the opportunity of using their data phone to record a voice or video message related to say a sweater or gift item.

A tag would then be attached to the object carrying a radio-frequency identification tag or a QR code.

Customers could use a hand-held reader to lift the message from the radio tag and hear something about the object on sale, the past owner’s response to it. Shoppers could also use their data phone to read the QR code, a form of identity code system akin to a bar code.

Dr Hudson-Smith showed how this worked, scanning a QR code from a dress and then allowing his phone to link directly to its website. There you could watch a short video showing its former owner, the singer Annie Lennox, who told us it was the dress she wore at a birthday party thrown for Nelson Mandela.