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RFID in Libraries

The Future Now blog is way too thought-provoking!  Maybe it's the novelty of having just discovered it.  Anyway, Jason Tester writes about RFID tracking in library books. If the books can be located instantly no matter where they are within the library's boundaries, Jason wonders how the library might be organized. 

The obvious suggestion is to leave the books categorized by subject category, but I have an interesting idea. The RFID can integrate to more than just a check-in/check-out/where-is-it system.... in fact we can borrow a concept from warehouse management and organize the library by frequent use. 

After enough data on book usage is compiled, we can do some data mining to place heavily-used books in more convenient areas of the library (lower shelves, closer to the front) , while rarely-used books are on higher shelves, off in a corner somewhere but still easily locatable.

This is a classic application of inventory management software that organizes, let's say, auto parts warehouses by putting high-demand parts with the greatest turnover rate (something like common fuel filters, spark plugs, or headlight lamps) toward the front of the warehouse for easiest loading onto delivery trucks or for easy pickup at the front counter. Obscure parts that seldom fail and therefore aren't purchased often, are either not kept in inventory at all (therefore eliminating "carrying cost") or kept somewhere in the back. 

For a library that collects similar data about book checkouts, perhaps the local school system has a set reading list.  And many of the locals come in looking for whatever's on the NYT Bestseller list.  Those items can be placed toward the front of the library.  Those are obvious picks, but the data mining could pull up high-turnover books that nobody would expect, and have them re-located.  Then, the RFID allows you to pinpoint exactly where the book is, and it's all automated so the librarians no longer have to "just know" where the high-demand items are. 

This setup would save lots of time, in terms of walking around a huge library and climbing up and down to reach high shelves.  The downside is... what about the classic book browsing behavior by subject? Would that all be done by computer too, like Amazon and Google are building right now?

Posted on December 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Future Now writes about Digital Signage

I just discovered the Future Now blog, run by Menlo Park think-tank Institure for the Future. There's some pretty interesting writing on this site, and it's well worth keeping an eye on; in fact I'm adding it to my daily reading list. 

Of particular interest to me is a post by Franz Dill I found when reading their November archive, in which they allude to digital signage in the retail environment. They reference a BusinessWeek article and the Metro Future Store in Germany, talking specifically about digital signage's impact in retail. 

As you might know, I'm actually quite enthusiastic about digital media in general due to its central importance to the "digital hub lifestyle" embodied in the Mac iLife apps, iPod, EyeTV,  etc.  Digital signage is something I've referred to previously because of its association with the Scala InfoChannel digital signage software, but I haven't really jumped into the subject here. As you can see from the Scala homepage, in the news area, plenty of big names are seeing the huge opportunity of this emerging field.

Just this summer, on vacation in Amsterdam, I was impressed with the LCD screens used information and advertising on the city's tram system.  Not only is dynamic, colorful, full-motion video cool, the LCD and plasma screens themselves are attention-getters because they are a hot item, especially with the coming of HDTV. The hype surrounding these consumer must-haves must have some effect on making the digital signage more noticible as well.

Scala's digital signage whitepapers and published articles pages have a wealth of additional imformation on the subject from various sources, and even IBM has retail digital signage information on their site.

Posted on December 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VLC Player

Just to follow up on the VideoLAN post- I haven't set up any media networks yet, as I have found no immediate need for such a thing. But to watch large-ish video files in formats that Quicktime Player won't handle, VLC is a great choice.  Very smooth playback and good quality sound, with a pretty slick interface.  The only thing is that even when paused, my iBook will not go into sleep mode, while pausing MPlayer will allow sleep.  I've found that in the case of my iBook, which is a few years old and running at 500 Mhz, the VLC player performs better overall than MPlayer, which sometimes gives jittery playback.  I recommend both players because your mileage may vary!

Posted on December 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack