August 28, 2006

New Technology Mashups: VoIP and RFID

Here's an interesting mashup of two relatively new technologies, VoIP and RFID. Japanese department store giant Mitsukoshi has set up a system in their dressing rooms that makes use of both technologies in an innovative way, using a special Cisco VoIP/ RFID phone.

Customers use the dressing room phone's reader to scan the clothing item's RFID tag, then use the phone to talk to an employee. The employee can use their Cisco phone, which has a large display, to see what similar items are in stock, retrieve the items, and take them to the correct dressing room.[ Storefront Backtalk via The VoIP Weblog]

Now is this a brilliant use of technology or what? Mitsukoshi is not the only retailer to use RFID tagging, but they're one of the first I've heard of who have combined it with VoIP. Not only does this setup save the retailer lost wages from the employee standing around outside the dressing room, but the customer's happy because the employee is bringing similar items with minimal effort - and probably in the right size.

Of course, there's one huge drawback with the way things are set up: all those grubby hands and ears touching the dressing room phones. Still, this is a novel use of technology, hygiene issues aside, and certainly a scenario where upper-end IP phones with a display panel are worth it to the business.

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