Making a RFID to Web Interface and LilyPad Electronic Fashion at ETech 2009

Tue, Mar 10, 2009


“Come to ETech; Experiment with Physical Computing and RFIDs” said Brady Forrest. The ETech RFID tag that I activated at registration is a gateway to several internetworked worlds.  It allows you to check into pulse stations to tell you about people with similar interests to you based on your traffic movements around the conference.  There is a photo booth that allows you to upload photos to Flickr. And even a Fortune Teller from Josh and Tarikh of Uncommon Projects (makers of the awesome Yahoo! geo-bike) that will be arriving tomorrow, and more.

But the first day of ETech 2009 was packed with hands-on workshops.  And I actually managed to make, in Tom Igoe’s, Hands-On RFID for Makers workshop, my first RFID to web interface that could read Etech’s elegant RFID tags (also see my photo set on Flickr to get a glimpse of the action in the workshop). Amazingly it worked perfectly first time (I did have help from the very patient executive editor of Maker Media Books, Brian Jepson. And Tom Igoe’s step by step instructions on his website are invaluable (picture of Tom Igoe below).

It was very exciting to actually get hands-on with the Arduino open source electronics prototyping platform, and Processinga very accessible language to do dynamic and interactive graphics for screen-based media, . You’ll know how much I love to write about these things if you have checked out some of my previous posts.


My “build” is sitting on the right of my workshop neighbor Ahmed Riaz (ebay) in the photo opening this post. We shared power supplies and a great discussion on interaction and user experience design (see my previous post, Towards a Newer Urbanism: Talking Cities, Networks, and Publics with Adam Greenfield, for an idea of some of the topics that we touched on). We also discovered a shared interest in User Experience Design sketches – see Ahmed’s blog here and his flickr stream for his project on UX sketches. I have reposted here one of my favorite UX sketches done by an eight year old, especially for Ahmed.

If you look closely at the picture below you will see that Ahmed’s RFID to web interface has read my Etech RFID tag and pulled up my Etech Conflink profile and picture.

In the evening, Tom Igoe announced during his Ignite presentation that an Arduino MEGA will be available next week – more pins, more ports, more memory.  I can’t wait to see what people come up with for the MEGA, especially as Pachube (another favorite project of mine – see my interview with founder Usman Haque here) is designed to work with Arduino and Processing.

I think I’m hooked on Maker culture. I can’t wait to check out the Etech Maker Shed that opens today. I got a feel for the excitement of rapid prototyping in the morning doing the LilyPad Electronic Fashion workshop with Leah Buechley, a brilliant and patient teacher. Leah is checking out Raffi  Krikorian and Tom Igoe’s progress in the photo below.


There was some big talent in the Lilypad workshop. The Wattzon team, Raffi  Krikorian and Jeremy Cloud, and Wattzon-phile Tom Igoe stitched and ironed (see my Flickr stream here), and helped out noobs like me. Possibly we will see some programmable T-Shirts displaying carbon footprint data. But certainly you can use Wattzon to compute the embodied energy data of all the Lilypad components.

I was a little hampered by my appalling needlework skills. But Maker culture came to the rescue when I twittered about needlework phobia and LilyPad love. @dpentecost replied in seconds inviting me to “sew and tell” at a NYC Lilypad meetup when I return to NYC. Below is a picture of Jeremy Cloud’s excellent stitching with the challenging silver plated thread.


categories: Ambient Devices, Ambient Displays, Carbon Footprint Reduction, culture of participation, Energy Awareness, Instrumenting the World, message brokers and sensors, new urbanism, Paticipatory Culture, Smart Devices, Smart Planet, sustainable living, ubiquitous computing, Web 2.0, Web Meets World
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1 Comments For This Post

  1. tamberg Says:

    For a way to directly hook up a Parallax Serial RFID module and the BlueSmirf Bluetooth module see


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