• 10.15.09

Duo Visualizes Radio Waves, Helping Designers Apply RFID Technology to Products

An experimental LED array reveals the electromagnetic fields surrounding an RFID chip.

RFID field

To many minds, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology seems pretty sinister. After all, its reach is basically invisible. The interactions it promises–between devices, while we’re blithely unaware–can seem like a creepy sort of magic.


Timo Arnall of Nearfiled and Jack Schulze of BERG took that as a challenge. As they point out, it’s hard to know what you can do with RFID if you don’t understand how it inhabits your space. So they invented an LED probe that lights up in the presence of an RFID field:

RFID field

Then they created composite images of the readings and animated the results, so you can actually “see” what an RFID field looks like (pictured in image above):

Pretty cool stuff. But Arnall and Schulze think that their project’s usefulness could be vast: By knowing more about what RFID fields look like, designers will be able to find better, more intuitive ways to interact with, and take advantage of, the technology.

And they’ve taken a first step in that process by designing an RFID logo based on what they found through their work:

RFID icon

That’s ingenious, important stuff: As technology progresses, we need better symbols to understand all the gadgets and electrical hubbub that surrounds us. What could be better than symbols that actually reveal a bit about how a technology works?

[Nearfield via Infosthetics]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.