Shell Energy Lab 2013


Shell Energy Lab utilises RFID technology to give the visitors access to custom digital content throughout the event and create personalised souvenirs of their experience. Visitors are given a ‘Lab Pass’ that they swipe as they participate in various activities throughout the space. Digital ‘souvenirs’ such as photos and videos are associated with the pass and can be retrieved by entering the Lab Pass’ unique number into the Energy Lab website.

We created an attractor for the RFID swipe points to increase interactions and improve the experience of using the Lab Pass.

We started by prototyping a 10×10 matrix of hand-soldered RGB LEDs with the view to build custom LED matrix circuit boards. When this proved temperamental and time consuming we found that using LED tiles would be a beter solution. These tiles are usually found in large screens (like the screens on either side of the stage at a music festival for example).


An Arduino was used to drive the screen and a Raspberry Pi to register the RFID interactions. The RFID reader was embedded as close to the back of the LED panel as possible so as to allow for maximum swiping range. All this and the panel was integrated into a powered-coated aluminium housing. A pane of glass backed with a layer of white vinyl was sealed onto the front of the housing. The vinyl diffused the LEDs whilst the glass provided a robust surface to swipe the Pass on.

In collaboration with the design team we created a tool to easily upload frame-by-frame animations (like GIFS) onto the tiles. An “attractor” loop animation invited visitors to swipe their card. Once the visitor’s RFID card touched the glass surface of the tile, the animation loop changes confirming the interaction.

This meant that we had to put a great care in designing a modular case enclosure that would be easy to fit in place during the short and highly paced time on site.

Our final implementation embedded an RFID reader behind a glass panel. The panel was mounted behind a stencil and a sheet of vinyl to diffuse the light.

These tiles serve a subtle but central role throughout the Shell Energy Lab event’s space as they were embedded in each and every touchpoint – for a total of 73 units. Observing the visitors (most of which were children) interacting with the tiles proved the project to be a success: the animated lighting was a natural attraction point providing an engaging way to access the many installations and informative panels around the exhibition as well as generating important data about the users.

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You can see the panels in action in the video below;

To find out more about Shell Energy Lab 2013 click here.