Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 13/11/2003Until now, the girly world of cosmetics has been largely untouched by macho electronics. Two stories surfacing today show that this haven of humanity is falling to the IT invasion, though.

Thursday 13/11/2003
Until now, the girly world of cosmetics has been largely untouched by macho electronics. Two stories surfacing today show that this haven of humanity is falling to the IT invasion, though. First, news from America where superstore chain Wal-Mart got together with the giant Proctor and Gamble and ran some tests on unsuspecting lippy buyers. RFID tags were embedded in Max Factor Lipfinity product and used to trigger remote video monitoring of purchasers at a Broken Arrow,  Oklahoma store. The tags were left active after the punters departed the shop -- raising the spectre of scanner vehicles checking the boudoirs of Broken Arrow for inappropriate lipstick usage.

Simultaneously, Spanish researcher Carlos Gonzales revealed his latest invention, electrochromic false nails. Made from layers of active plastics, these digital accessories can be fitted to the ends of your slender fingers and made to change colour with the appropriate bursts of electricty. Ostensibly there to help ladies coordinate their pinkies with the rest of their outfit, the potential is there for much, much more.

In fact, if you integrate them with an RFID detector, you're halfway there to sorting out the Wal-Marts of this world. Go to pick up a powder-puff, and if your thumb turns blue you know to leave well alone. Alternatively, they could be tuned into Wifi hot spots and made to lighten in hue as the available bandwidth increases.

This could be the beginning of something big. Alternatively, the almost universally bad reaction that follows revelation of RFID tag testing may shut that down at birth, and it's hard to see how even advanced production techniques can make electrochromic falsies cost less than a few packets of different coloured standard issue nails.

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