Radio frequency identification technology may be commonly known for bringing visibility to commercial and industrial environments, but in some cases, it can also be used simply to deliver comfort. Technology Company Sproutel is partnering with insurance firm Aflac to put a free RFID-enabled duck into the arms of every cancer patient between the ages of 3 and 13 throughout the United States. The technology will help youngsters to convey their emotions to health-care providers, and to cope with the stress of their treatment, through the use of passive RFID tokens tapped against the battery-powered toy.
Sproutel, located in Providence, R.I., makes interactive games designed for children suffering from chronic illnesses. The company released Jerry the Bear in 2013 (see Sproutel’s RFID-enabled Bear Helps Kids Cope With Cope With Type-1 Diabetes), employing RFID-tagged "food" for the bear that helps the children manage their own blood-sugar levels by learning what they can eat. If RFID-enabled foods were recognized by the reader built into the bear, it was approved on the screen mounted on the doll's belly, and the kids could then feed the bear.
According to Horowitz, my special Aflac Duck has a different challenge that RFID best address. Young users need the duck to play with and express their feelings without requiring an app or smartphone. That, in part, is due to the fact that Aflac has made what it calls a philanthropic commitment to providing the duck to all young cancer patients—many of whom may not have access to a smartphone.