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Tokyo to blanket Ginza with RFID tags

Forlorn attempt to prevent visitors getting lost

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The Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project has announced plans to blanket the Ginza region of Tokyo, the most popular shopping district, with 10,000 RFID tags and other wireless technologies to provide shopper-assistance and location-based services.

The trial starts later this month, and will feature a specially-designed handheld equipped with RFID, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. This handheld can rented by visitors, though the vision is that the service should be available on compatible phone handsets.

The thousands of RFID tags are used to identify where the user is; each has a unique serial number which is sent to a central server that responds with local information and directions if required.

The device will also automatically display special offers in nearby shops, and give information about the various retailers in each of the many buildings in the area.

The Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project is a joint venture between the Japanese government and various high-tech companies including Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC, and has run smaller trials elsewhere as well as developing technologies and usage models. These trials will run until March.

In these days of GPS, Galileo and triangulation systems it might seem a retrograde step to simply place numbered tags around an area, but the technology has the advantage of being accurate and reliable, as well as being ideally suited for a pedestrian population, and the visitors who are so frequently lost around Ginza.

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