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U Minnesota rolls out RFID-enabled biking system

Last night I attended “From Social Insights to Social Business Innovation” at the MIT campus in Cambridge. Hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum, the event addressed the role social media is playing within  the business community.

I’m always impressed with the network of bike lanes that stretch throughout the MIT campus. It got me to wondering why MIT, the birth place of so many RFID innovations, has not put a system in place to track bikers and reward them for being green by biking to class and to work.

The University of Minnesota has done just that. An article in the mndaily.com, the school newspaper, says that RFID will track which students bike the most, rewarding them with points that they can cash in for rewards for discounts on bike repairs, bike equipment and even on health insurance premiums.

The program has been in test version for the last year, with 100 RFID-tagged bikes participating. The first-of-its-kind system will be based out of the University’s bike center, which will begin registering riders for the program and installing the RFID tags next week.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In order to begin racking up points, participating bicyclists must ride by one of 20 cellular towers that the University has set up along the major bicycle corridors around campus. Each tower cost roughly $5,000 — all funded using part of the bike center’s $524,000 grant from Transit for Livable Communities.

Once a tag passes within range of a tower, the biker’s ID number will be transmitted to a secure database which he or she can then access online.

While RFID technology has been around for decades — commonly found … at clothing stores — it has never been used as a way to reward bicycle commuters. The University will be the first place in the country to have more than one tower installed, according to Steve Sanders,  bike coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services
said.

“The University is going to be the first big test of the system,” said Sanders. “It will determine if this can work on a large scale.”

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