[Long and of doubtful practical use, you're warned.]
Last Saturday I went to visit a town entirely made out of brand outlets. That place is amazingly confusing to browse; the sheer amount of input would induce cognitive overhead in everyone. My girlfriend, despite being a fine computer scientist in everyday life, in front of a Cerruti jeans sale couldn't help reverting to the most classical girly archetype and spent an astonishing amount of time joyously trying on each and every possible jeans pair, leaving me puzzled and with a significant amount of time for lurking around and make my considerations. When I come to shop in the States it does not really matter if I step in Bloomberg in New Orleans, in some other cc in Atlanta, at the Beverly Hills shopping center around Los Angeles or in some other I-don't-remember-the-name cc in Waltham, Boston; the experience is more or less the same everywhere, it's a sort of magic limbo very much like airport lounges in which few invariants are focal points around which you can structure your path. Saturday it was different: heterogeneous brands, no clustering logic, peculiar distribution models and so on. The only guide was a small brochure with the portable directory (though I've seen quite a few geeks going around with the printout of the downloadable PDF from their website), furthermore the map showed the shops by reference (numbers on the little house pictures, then a looong list of numbers in lexicographic order in respect to the name of the shop: no color code for the kind of goods, but per "square"). But the problem I want to deal with here is not the navigation, though the considerations below can very well apply for that subject as well. Being the tablet still too big for that kind of situation, I quickly turned on the good old h5550 to catch some WiFi and read some stuff I've never the time to check out: nope, no APs in range. Pessimismo & Fastidio [*]. So I finally surrendered to the fact that I actually had to buy new trousers after all, then I started wandering through shops with pocket Excel handy in order to record & compare prices (somebody says my home town is (in)famous for being inhabited by cheap dwellers, but of course those are just dirty lies ;-)).Then, I thought. Just having a big, comprehensive web portal on the pocketpc with all the products would not have worked in a good way, because that would have needed a conscious effort to contextualize to the reality & physicality of that particular shop I was visiting in that very moment. What I would actually loved would have been something to AUGMENT my item browsing, a digital counterpart on MY device of my LOCAL reality (the shop) and not an abstract, holistic, far model. Like having a magnifying glass, I would have loved something which would have revealed all the tags of one item on MY device, maybe even giving me the chance to retain those info and aggregate with others previously acquired. But think!!!Can you see it? Without even pushing the vision too far, you don't need RFID to make something like that actually happen (they may help, though). Imagine that the specific vertical market players reached an agreement on a common schema for describing the various goods (there's agreement on how a piece of infoset describing a fabric, or a shirt, should look like). Furthermore, imagine that when you step in the store your device queries the local access point to ws-discover what services are available: they may be instant catalog, compare, find similar, estimate the time of next arrivals for a particular item, book trouser ending trimming and so on. After all, all those are features of the goods exactly as the color, the fabric or the price, all parameters we already take into consideration when we want to buy something: the only difference is that the latters today are promptly available, while other features (like knowing when your size of that particular shirt will arrive in the shop) may only come as a specific service. Nothing prevents your device to expose discoverable services as well: you may welcome a certain degree of proactivity from the shop, which could query you for your sizes and notify the best compatible deals, make good old advertisements, discover if you have fidelity points to spend and yet more marketing models stuff that are unknown today but that will be enabled by those new means. If you think about it, the tech you need for this is already there: WiFi or Bluetooth access points, WiFi or BT enabled devices, UDP + WSA; what we still lack is the agreements on domain specific schemas and a more standardized way of exposing services from a device, but I'm pretty sure that wel'll start to see something like that quite soon.
[*] Italian. Literally, "pessimism and nuisance". it can't be actually translated, it sounds silly.