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RFID powers wearable option for Boston’s MBTA transit system

Wearable technology is catching on with riders of the MBTA, the public transportation system that serves Boston. MBTA riders can now opt to wear a flashy ring that contains the same RFID chip as their Charlie Card and provides stylish access to public transportation with a simple wave of the finger instead of a swipe of a card.

The Sesame Ring, which in on sale now, was created by a pair of students at MIT, a well-known hotbed for breakthroughs in RFID technology. More than 1,000 rings were recently shipped to customers who funded the project on Kickstarter last year.

“Having missed the train many times while fishing for our Charlie Cards (smart cards used for public transportation in Massachusetts), we looked for a solution in wearable technology,” the students said on their Kickstarter funding page.

“After months of hard work, we created the 3D-printed Sesame Ring, supported by the MBTA. Now, you can walk right up to the gantry, use scientifically approved magic, and scoot on through.”

The product’s inventors explored using the technology in key rings, bracelets and even iPhone cases before deciding on the ring approach.

Eventually, the students envision smart rings like the one they have developed being used to open doors and gain access to almost anything that smartcards are used for today. They could also be used as a replacement for student ID cards.

Wearable technology also has a bright future in healthcare, where future wearables will provide insights into the health of the wearer, advise how to get better, provide early warnings to seek professional support, and inform caregivers and nurses of patients in need of help.

According to NXP, small and highly sensitive battery operated sensors worn on clothing or on the body will produce raw data that will connect to the cloud via a watch or smartphone much in the way today’s comparatively simple fitness trackers do. Smart algorithms will turn sensor data into actionable information, which will be tailored to the intended recipient.

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