What are Smart Objects?

A smart object is simply any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object. There are a number of technologies that support smart objects: radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, quick response (QR) codes, and smartcards are some of the most common. Objects that carry information with them have long been used for point-of-sale purchases, passport tracking, inventory management, identification, and similar applications. RFID tags and smartcards “know” about a certain kind of information, like how much money is available in a user’s account and how to transfer the correct amount to a retailer for a given purchase, or which book is being checked out at a library, who the patron is, and whether that patron has any currently overdue materials. QR codes can be read by many camera-enabled mobile devices and can call up a wealth of information about the object tagged with the code. Smart chips embedded in small household appliances “know” where they are located and can access local information: your coffeepot can tell you about the weather while you pour yourself a cup. The thing that makes smart objects interesting is the way they connect the physical world with the world of information. Smart objects can be used to digitally manage physical things, to track them throughout their lifespan, and to annotate them with descriptions, opinions, instructions, warranties, tutorials, photographs, connections to other objects, and any other kind of contextual information imaginable. Thus far, smart objects are awkward to tag and difficult to scan for the everyday user, but that is beginning to change as manufacturers create user-friendly systems for tagging, scanning, and programming smart objects.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Libraries: QR Codes can be used as a way to provide point of need instruction or information when desks aren't staffed. For example, a student trying to find a book in the stacks could use a QR code to access a video explaining call numbers. If the student as at the reference desk once it's no longer staffed, for example, at 4am, the student could access tutorials to help learn what they need to learn. - laurenpressley laurenpressley Oct 5, 2010
  • Libraries have explored using RFID tags to help with keeping materials in order and inventory. - laurenpressley laurenpressley Oct 5, 2010
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • your response here
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • your response here
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Wake Forest University is experimenting with them in the library: http://cloud.lib.wfu.edu/blog/gazette/2010/04/24/quick-response-codes-first-in-japan-now-in-zsr-library/ - laurenpressley laurenpressley Oct 5, 2010
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