Workshop Archive

RFID and the Internet of Things

14 | 15 | 16 November 2006

14 Nov 2006
16 Nov 2006

RFID & The Internet of Things is a workshop for a maximum of 16 designers and artists who want to learn more about RFID and its possible effects and uses.


Blogjects -

A group of great international speakers guide the participants through technical, social, cultural and political RFID issues. Participants make their own prototype of an RFID application or scenario, in which the virtual and the physical world are joined.

RFID plays a pivotal role in joining the physical world with the digital. An object tagged with an RFID chip has a unique digital identity. Any kind of online data can be linked to these unique ID's. Here is where the real world and the internet become two faces of the same reality. Things go online, in other words, an internet of things evolves.

During the workshop participants can mould their ideas into working prototypes, allowing them to partake in the whole process; from 'idea' to (potential) 'product'. Workshop projects may range from new ways to personalise objects, to funny locative applications or world-wide sustainability scenario's.
Mediamatics' RFID powered Symbolic Table as well as the Nokia 3220 RFID phone will be amongst the available tools for participants to use, test and play their ideas on.


The morning sessions are dedicated to lectures on current technology, theory and implementations of RFID and Internet-of-Things concepts. In the afternoons participants will develop their own projects. Experienced staff will be present for technical and conceptual assistance. The workshop ends with an informal presentation.

Confirmed lecturers and trainers:

Melanie Rieback (US, NL)

Melanie Rieback wrote the worlds' first RFID virus and is mainly involved in the RFID Guardian Project, a collaborative project focused upon providing security and privacy in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems. The RFID Guardian is a mobile battery-powered device that offers personal RFID security and privacy management. Rieback is last year PhD student at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

Julian Bleecker (US)

Julian Bleecker is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication and an Assistant Professor in the Interactive Media Division, part of the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His work focuses on emerging technology design, research and development, implementation, concept innovation, particularly in the areas of pervasive media, mobile media, social networks and entertainment, and he is one of the main theoreticists on The Internet of Things.
In his lecture he'll speak about the currently existing elements from which an internet of things seems to be evolving, and what it could mean to live surrounded by an internet of things.

Arie Altena (NL)

Arie Altena writes about art and new media for various magazines; lectures at art academies; studied Literary Theory; worked at Mediamatic; was editor of Mediamatic Magazine and Metropolis M; co-organized the festivals Sonic Acts X and XI;
In 2006 he is a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. His blog-research, entitled In the Loop, is part of the Ubiscribe-project.
In his talk he will into the life of data-clouds, in the context of the convergence of Web2.0 and networked RFID systems.

Rob van Kranenburg (NL)

Rob van Kranenburg is senior lecturer Ambient Experience Design (HKU, KMT) and program manager at the Virtueel Platform. He is a longtime critical follower of the developments around ubiqitous computing and RFID. In the workshop he'll go the current state of affairs around RFID implementations. He will discuss the ways in which old and new stakeholders deal with the most important issues, and deduct a prediction about 'where it's going'.

Chris O'Shea (UK)

Chris O'Shea is an interactive media artist and independent researcher. He constructs models of interaction that borrow from toy design and video games, to create play situations within virtual environments and in tangible devices.
His presentation will be on creating interaction outside the keyboard and mouse, into physical spaces and tangible objects, and discuss possibly ways in which RFID can be used to facilitate these ideas. You'll find a website on Chris' own works here. And his blog where he discusses other people's works is here.


The reader for this workshop is online.

Workshop Report

by Klaas Kuitenbrouwer

A group of crucial thinkers and makers from various RFID related area's gathered to contribute their insights to the workshop RFID & The Internet of Things (Mediamatic's 4th RFID related workshop). Programmer Melanie Rieback, media analyst Rob van Kranenburg, cultural critic Arie Altena, media professor and internet-of-things thinker Julian Bleecker and interactive artist Chris O'Shea were present at the workshop.
Their stories and experience guided the participants through technical, social, cultural and political RFID issues. Participants made their own prototype of an RFID application, blending the physical and virtual world in quite unexpected ways.

In short

Melanie Rieback gave an overview on RFID technology, and discussed the serious security issues related to RFID, one of which she has demonstrated with her famous RFID virus.
Rob van Kranenburg developed a picture of the major stakes of the big players in the RFID development, and stressed the urgency to come up with viable alternative uses when its still possible to have a large impact.
Chris O'Shea a interactive media artist looked into the merging of physical and digital space from the perspective his own work as an interaction artist. He went into tangible interfaces, operating systems for houses, and cybrids, hybrid physical and digital objects.
Arie Altena investigated how blog software and bloggers mutually influenced each other, and together triggered the 'blogosphere', and drew analogues with the possible development of social RFID systems.
Julian Bleecker discussed a series of current products and practices that can be understood as precursors of an Internet of Things. He presented his view on how the mix of 1st existence (meatspace) and 2nd existence (digital space) will develop.

What was made

Duncan Shingleton and Kostya Leonenko developed a very interesting project in which online data can only be accessed at specific physical locations.
A small and relatively secret international network of users, uploads useful information for no-budget travellers, (e.g. 'free diners there-and there 20.00 hrs on saturdays') and makes the information accesible only through RFID tags at specific places that work as decryption keys. Users rate the value of available information and can only access information if they have contributed useful information themselves.

Vincent Teeuwen and Juriaan Moolhuysen from the HKU worked on their project Yo! Opera. Ultimately they came up with a way to use RFID to turn a exhibition space into a dynamic musical instrument that can be played by multiple tagged players simulteneously.

Dominiek ter Heide, Peter de Ridder and Richard Bosch from Fresh Deuce - HvA presented a digital/realworld object hunt that is happening across the whole world. All players can also contribute objects and clues about its current location. The more interesting the location the object is found at the higher the score for the one finding it. The objects all carry unique RFID tags, so that when they are found the database automatically updates the world wide highscore.

Alexander Zeh, Bart Groen, Kasper Oostendorp and Ronald Lenz wanted to find out how RFID could be used to create an alternative value for objects. By tagging everyday objects with read/write RFID tags and proposing the connectivity of present mobile phones to make network connections, the possibility would arise to gain insight into the social environment of the objects, the amount of attention they recieved, and to script all kinds of behaviours in relation to occurence or absence of certain objects.

Marinus de Vries was working solitary over the course of the workshop, with assistance of Klaas, Slava and Julian in order to determine what RFID might mean for his Tschumipaviljoen where he exhibits interactive art. The workshop came up with every useful way of using RFID tagged objects that can be sold all over Groningen, to trigger events in the Tschumipaviljoen.

Detailed review

Day 1

(by Bart Groen)

The first day of the workshop started with a presentation by Melanie Rieback one of the VU scientists that shook up the RFID world by presenting the world's first RFID virus. Her presentation entitled ' RFID + Security' focused on security issues surrounding the use of RFID and the reasons why artists and designers should care about these issues.
Being the technical expert on the topic (compared to the other lecturers) Melanie starts out by giving a basic introduction of RFID technology, its uses and its history. Doing so she introduces the working of the tag, the working of the reader and how it found its way to popularity.

Rob van Kranenburg then continued by discussing the most important RFID related issues. He starts this out by stating that: “RFID is a strange space”. Since it's use will lead to three results: there will be no more public space; there will be no more memory loss and there will be no more people, just dataclouds. Because everything will be tracked, traced and saved, which will be the case when readers and tags are everywhere. If this is so, people will become mere descriptions of the things they're carrying with them, dataclouds.
Our society is headed this way since “people want security, they want camera's”. Rob then goes into some of the more technical aspects of RFID, here he mentions the ONS (as based on DNS) the Object Name Service. By which the connection to the internet of things can be made, for when all objects have a unique ONS number they are uniquely traceable throughout the world (e.g. with the data submitted to a central database you will be able to find every object everywhere). That’s why he states that: “RFID should be conceptualized from the reader or database” and not from the tag.
Because RFID might turn out to be the glue that binds the digital to the physical world.

After lunch its time for the final talk of the day: that of Chris O'Shea, not so much an RFID expert but rather “an interactive media artist and researcher. His focus is on creating works that encourage new methods of play and collaboration, challenging our perception of space and physical objects”. And from this perspective asks the question how RFID can be used for exploration and play, outside of social, economic and privacy issues; the artistic perspective. He begins by showing us several of examples he encountered during his research where hybrids of physical and electronic space exist. For this he refers to Peter Anders' Cybrids, a term that signifies this merging of physical and digital space.

Day 2

Arie Altena kicks off day two with his presentation on “How the web became social (although it already was)” on the way his blog/publishing research relates to the topic of design for RFID. Arie notes that the technology is still in a state of infancy, therefore it might turn out to be something people will start using in the same way in which they are using computers right now. He relates this to how blogging as a way of using technology is not scaring, its easy, as opposed to the creating of technology, which still is scary or at least difficult. “What used to be distributed has now become packaged” in blogging technology, user and software come together, it connects to what people want to do. But what exactly is blogging, and how do users “use” personal publishing? The activity of blogging (or reading blogs) has and will become more and more externalized, as an example of this Arie mentions technorati where people can set their preferences (search for meta- tags) so they can get the information they want without ever having to have visited a blog (the search is aggregated in an RSS feed and as such delivered in their feed reader). Another example is the way in which users can send content to their blogs through their browser (via Flock or Flickr) or even from their mobile phone.

Last, but not least, is Julian Bleecker coiner of the term 'Blogject'. Julian's presentation has as its title “Internet of things, when 1st and 2nd life meet up”. This he sees as a joining together of 1st life (the human or physical world) and 2nd (the online or digital world). He questions what it means to create 2nd life experiences through 1st life actions. And this goes beyond the idea of the network, since it is “not about the network, its what you do with it”. Followed by “What would the social web look like when more and more network connected things start to participate?”. What is an internet (as a social web) when things start to participate and what do people do with these possibilities?
With these questions posed Julian dives into a load of examples and clarifications. The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) has published a report on RFID, which they titled: The Internet of Things, which is paradigmatic for the amount of interest there is for new technologies

Day 3

The workshop participants were teamed up in four teams, all with a different imperative, some had a prior interest and some were formed ad-hoc. The teams have spent parts of day 1 and 2 working on their ideas and projects. Day 3 was fully reserved for working on the projects. Resulting in the final presentations at 17:00. See What was made above for a summary of the projects.


The five lectures/talks/presentations have shown a common bond. Starting out from the critical technological point of view Melanie offered, showing that it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to make a change in the development of a new technology as RFID and that artists might prove themselves useful there.
Then Rob added a theoretical perspective in which notions of privacy were questioned and a world in which humans do need to take action if they don't want to be abstracted to dataclouds and in which the artists perspective was once more stressed as being one of the few people that have the opportunity to make a change.
Chris O'Shea showed that artists have loads of options in creating context awareness in visitors while using various technologies, about which they should be critical: don't use a technology just to be using it!.

Arie Altena added a layer of personal publishing and its issues for privacy which might have a likewise impact on RFID. Finishing this off with Julians combination of technology, life and the intimate link these two might embark on with the future (which may prove to be not so future) possibilities of networking objects and having these intervene in our daily life/social web.