The idea, described in Apple’s patent “RFID network arrangement” is simple. Put RFID transceiver into a network wireless base station such as Airport Express or Airport Extreme and put RFID tags on other devices that you want to connect to Wi-Fi network.
All network configuration information, including communication parameters, SSID info, radio channels, encryption keys, etc; can be stored in the base station. When RFID enabled network device is brought in to close proximity of the base station, RFID transceiver collects this information and writes it to read/write RFID tag on the network device. When this device is turned on, it reads configuration data and security keys from RFID tag and establishes secure network connection.
That’s it. From a user stand point - you just bring you Macbook within a feet of your Airport Express and the network is set up. You don’t even have to have a Macbook on at the time. RFID info to the tag can be read/written without additional power source. Then you turn your laptop on and it’s already on the network.
RFID tags also solve the problem of how to connect various “dumb” devices that don’t have appropriate user interface (like screen or keypad) for easy configuration:
- This may be the final piece in the puzzle to make Wi-Fi iPod a reality. Put WI-Fi chip inside, add RFID tag and that’s it. You take your iPod to your base station and then turn it on. Your iPod is another device on the network. Of course, passing Wi-Fi synchronization data to the iPod was already technically possible. But RFID tags make the process so much easier.
- One of applications mentioned in the patent is Apple Wi-Fi Remote for:
“… controlling the operation of the iTunes music software provided by Apple computer… Such a remote control might have buttons for a variety of playback-oriented functions, such as play, pause, skip forward, skip back, volume control, etc, but such a device might not include an alphanumeric keypad or display device suitable to allow configuration of the device to operate over a wireless network. Using the teachings herein, such a remote control could be configured merely be bringing it into proximity with the computer or network base station…”
- Extending your WI-Fi network. You can have RFID transceiver on Airport Extreme and RFID tags on Airport Express. Then you just sync them and plug Airport Express where you need extended Wi-Fi coverage.
- Wi-Fi enabled network printer and any other peripheral. Again, put Wi-Fi chip in it, slap RFID tag on, sync. Your printer is another device on the wireless network
Looks like Apple did it again. The basic idea is so simple and obvious in hindsight, yet it opens so many new possibilities that there will be lot of people wondering “Why didn’t I think of that earlier”.