RFID playing cards - an interview with Matt Trossen

January 26, 2007

Matt Trossen, the CEO of Trossen Robotics, perhaps more famous as the guys who marketed the now famous Phidgets DYI gadget kits in the USA, mailed me last night to say they'd introduced a pack of RFID playing cards in their product line.

I mailed back with the (obvious?) question: Why?

Matt replied promptly, and provided some pretty good ideas (watch out next time you play texas hold'em with your geek friends - no gadgets on/under the table :-)

A large percentage of our customer base for the RFID products we sell are hobbyists, educational projects, and the DIY crowd. We’ve had people ask about an RFID deck of playing cards on many occasions and we always thought it was a really cool idea. This kit would be purchased by a student for example who was interested in writing a statistics software program for a school project or possibly a hobbyist who wanted to create a fun card game or add a layer of interactivity to an existing game. It could also be used by a teacher that wanted to provide a challenge to a classroom of students. Students would be broken up into groups of four for example and given a reader and the deck of cards and asked to create a program that can track a card game while displaying it on a screen. This is the type intended audience for this product. We have seen a lot of creative uses for RFID over the years and this is along that vein. There are many places RFID can be used besides plain old inventory tracking. We like to help sell low cost RFID technology to those out there who experiment with novel ideas and placements for RFID.

I could also see people doing a proof of concept for real use of RFID cards. Texas holdem is very popular right now and to track the cards the players are holding the players have to show the cards to a mini camera and a human has to read them. This is complex and requires human intervention to accomplish. Imagine instead if the casino used an RFID enabled deck of cards and there was a reader under each players section at the table. A computer system could know instantly what each player was holding even before they looked at the cards themselves. Games could be tracked automatically and the information could be fed to the onscreen display without the need for a human to be watching a dozen cameras trying to read cards and enter them into the system. It would be a huge cost saver to casinos that run competitions and shows. So I see this little DIY RFID playing card kit as a first step in such a direction.

Posted by andersja