Nine Nifty Ways NFC Enriches Daily Lives

By Lisa Gundlach, NFC Forum

As mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT) become a bigger part of our lives, consumers want — and have come to expect — personalized user experiences. Today’s leading developers and product designers are turning to NFC technology to advance the ways in which products, services, and applications enable meaningful consumer experiences.

NFC-enabled smartphones will reach 3.5 billion handsets globally by 2019, according to ABI Research. With an NFC-enabled smartphone, consumers are able to initiate all kinds of interactions and services with a simple tap or swipe of the screen. From talking labels and digital necklaces to shortcut buttons on your mobile device, NFC technology is able to uniquely connect consumers’ physical surroundings to their digital worlds.

“Many of the 36 billion objects being connected to the Internet by 2020 will likely take advantage of NFC tags,” said Paula Hunter, executive director, NFC Forum. “With Android and, now, Apple developers creating apps that can read NFC Forum tags, the key to scalable market growth will be to deliver a predictable consumer experience across all NFC tag-enabled products and services.”

Listed below are just a few examples of real-world, award-winning projects developed by some of the world’s most innovative companies, all of which utilize NFC technology.

INNOVATIVE NFC PRODUCTS & SERVICES

1. Speech Code — Making The Physical World Talk In More Than 40 Languages

Speech Code GmbH (Austria) is the developer of NFC talking labels, the latest generation of data codes for modern smartphones. From signage and retail products to food and beverage packaging, Speech Code NFC stickers make it easier for people with disabilities, retail shoppers and tourists to obtain information.

Figure 1: Speech Code was selected by a panel of judges as a first-place winner in the NFC Innovation Award in the “Most Innovative NFC Product, Service, or Implementation” category. Speech Codes, which are printed NFC talking labels, enable 40 minutes of speech output in over 40 different languages. (Image courtesy of Speech Code)

NFC Enables Speech Code to Offer A Better User Experience — Even Without Internet Access

The Speech Code Generator software turns two complete pages of information into a 5x5 cm square colored, printable data code on an NFC tag. When the NFC tag is scanned with an NFC-enabled smartphone or device and free Speech Code app, the audio and text information is decoded and immediately presented to the user — all without requiring Internet access or any sort of downloading process. The information appears as text on the smartphone’s display or plays in audio format via text-to-speech technology. The diverse selection of languages makes Speech Code NFC labels ideal for assisting consumers. In addition to helping people with visual impairments, Speech Code NFC labels are beneficial for people with reading deficiencies and language barriers.

Figure 2: From warnings to important chemical or allergy information, Speech Code NFC labels help ensure that all consumers learn about important product safety issues. (Image courtesy of Speech Code)

Speech Code NFC labels enable enhanced capabilities for the retail and product safety industries by enabling consumers to uncover potentially life-saving allergy information or usage instructions by scanning the packaging’s label. With optional PIN protection, information access can be limited to a defined user group of people, such as lab technicians.

Figure 3: Using an NFC-enabled phone, tourists in another country can hear important data ranging from nutrition facts to hiking, trail or museum information. (Image courtesy of Speech Code).

“While QR-codes require Internet access to connect to the appropriate website, Speech Code NFC labels contain the entire data set within the NFC tag. As a result, information access is always possible anywhere and anytime with an NFC-enabled device–a big advantage for consumers concerned with communication or roaming fees when abroad or without Wi-Fi,” said Barbara Operschall, CEO of Speech Code. “While Speech Code NFC labels are a convenience for most people, for many others they may be the only way to access information, especially for people with reading problems and the visually impaired. Speech Code NFC labels’ verbal and tonal guidance instructions enable blind people to autonomously scan the NFC-enabled code, navigate within the text and establish a single-tap connection to read a telephone number or access a website.”

2. Blulog — Keeping Foods Fresh Throughout the Cold Chain

Blulog (Poland) uses NFC-enabled data loggers and NFC-connected boxes for customizing and monitoring temperatures in its food-based cold chain packaging, storage, and shipping business. Using an NFC-enabled phone or device, a user can scan the Blulog label on a fridge or on a Blulog NFC-connected box to receive information about current and historical temperature for this specific location.

Figure 1: Blulog was honored as a semi-finalist is NFC Innovation Award in the “Most Innovative NFC Product, Service, or Implementation” category. The figure above displays how NFC enables temperature-sensitive products to be monitored throughout the cold chain. Watch the video here.

A Standard Feature On Most Smartphones And Devices, NFC Is Ideal For Logistics Applications

Blulog’s NFC-connected isothermal box integrates the NFC data logger directly into the packaging, simplifying the whole logistics process. Using an NFC data logger (Figure 2), the packaging’s inside and outside temperatures are measured during the entire transportation period.

Figure 2: As shown above, an NFC temperature data logger is as compact as a credit card. Autonomous and economically priced, these data loggers offer a +/- 0.2°C precision between 0 and 30°C and +/- 0.4°C on the rest of the range -40 to +60°C, with calibration certificate provided. (Image Courtesy of Blulog)

During transport, the packaging’s temperature can be scanned using an NFC-enabled device (Figure 3) — without even opening the box. The temperature data can be uploaded into the cloud, ensuring that the proper drug or food temperature is maintained at all times. Once delivery has been made, the box can be picked up and used again for future transports.

Figure 3: Using NFC-enabled devices, Blulog labels enable workers or consumers to consult the Blulog mobile app to spot if food or other products have not been stored at the right temperature throughout the cold chain. (Image Courtesy of Blulog)

“Beyond the expiration date, storage conditions are crucial for the freshness of food products. When fresh products are not stored at the proper temperature, their life expectancy will be significantly lowered and microbes will be more likely to grow,” explains Jérémy Laurens, Blulog sales and marketing director, “In our increasingly connected society, it is now possible for supermarkets and stores to demonstrate transparency and innovation to NFC-device enabled consumers looking to purchase quality food products.”

3. East Japan Railway — Bringing Mobile Wallets to Public Transport

As Tokyo prepares to host the Summer Olympics in 2020, Japan’s National Tourism Board has set a goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Japan from 20 million in 2015 to 40 million by 2020. Through the power of NFC technology, the East Japan Railway Company (Japan) is making public transport more accessible, efficient and convenient for both frequent and infrequent riders, including foreign visitors. The East Japan Railway Company’s (JR East) NFC-based mobile wallet service, “Suica,” enables local and non-local riders to add and check balances, purchase commuter passes, and secure passage across the high-speed rail from any location and at any hour.

Figure 1: JR East was honored as a semi-finalist in NFC Innovation Award in the “Most Innovative NFC Product, Service, or Implementation” category. As shown above, a JR East rider uses an NFC-enabled mobile phone to gain secure passage. (Image Courtesy of JR East)

NFC Clears A Path For More Satisfied Users And A Foundation For Nationwide Interoperability

“NFC technology allows a user to have multiple services on a single mobile phone, so mobile Suica can work side-by-side with other e-money services, such as Rakuten Edy, Nanaco, and Waon,” noted Mr. Yamada of JR East in a recent NFC Forum Suica transport case study. “Because NFC is a global standard, it enlarges the number of potential users for mobile Suica.”

NFC’s status as a global standard has been a significant factor for JR East, which is working to increase its potential user base by achieving public transport interoperability throughout Japan. Mobile Suica is already accepted by the fare systems of other Japanese transit operators, including the greater Tokyo area’s PASMO and JR West’s ICOCA.

MOBILE APPS TAPING INTO NFC

1. Khushi Baby — Engaging the Community with Wearable Health

Each year 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Avoidable maternal mortality rates are also unacceptably high. By improving the patient check-in and follow-up process, Khushi Baby Inc. (United States) hopes its NFC-enabled wearable health system provides at-risk families in rural India with the essential care they cannot find elsewhere.

Khushi Baby’s NFC-based mobile application enables health workers to interface with infant vaccination data through an NFC tag embedded inside the digital necklace. Using an NFC-enabled mobile device, a health worker scans the mother’s and infant’s necklaces for relevant patient and vaccination records. Once a child has received its vaccination, the health worker uses their NFC-enabled smartphone to update the information stored on both the mother’s and infant’s necklaces. In addition, the information is synced to the cloud, where health workers can access and display the information on their home office dashboard.

Figure 1: Khushi Baby was named the first-place winner in the NFC Innovation Award program in the “Best Mobile App” category. The NFC necklace is embedded with an NFC (NTAG216) chip that holds 888 bytes of data, enough to store the key data from the vaccination card. The health workers use a phone with built-in NFC read/writer to read and update information on the chip via the Khushi Baby Android app. (Image courtesy of Khushi Baby)

NFC Ensures Clinicians Have Reliable Access To Patient Data Using NFC-enabled Mobile Devices

Unlike paper immunization records, which are difficult to maintain and access or can be lost or destroyed, the Khushi Baby, which means “happy baby,” mobile app enables clinicians to rely on NFC-enabled mobile devices to read the data on each infant’s wearable necklace. The necklace makes it possible for a medical professional to identify which vaccinations are needed, upload the vaccine data into the cloud, and monitor the infant in real-time. As a result, the company’s NFC-enabled system makes it possible for health workers in 600 villages to monitor 30,000 mothers and their infants, while also keeping up to date records on vaccinations in rural India, especially in remote areas may not have Internet access.

Figure 2: Health workers use an NFC-enabled mobile phone to scan data from an NFC tag embedded inside a digital necklace. The Khushi Baby mobile app enables a clinician to get an update on the baby’s vaccination records and then sync that information into the cloud-based dashboard. (Image courtesy of Khushi Baby)

Khushi Baby believes its system is more than just a necklace or a healthcare tool, offering a novel community engagement platform that can be a potential driver of behavioral improvement.

Figure 3: Khushi Baby’s digital necklace includes an NFC tag and antenna. (Image Courtesy of NFC Forum)

The NFC-enabled necklace is modeled after amulet necklaces frequently worn by babies in this region. The waterproof NFC-enabled necklace is ideal for use in rural communities, relying on low-power wireless technology for operation instead of batteries.

“NFC technology is essential to our long-term vision. We aim to motivate and monitor the health of over one million mothers and their newborns in the next five years by making the most field-robust, secure, and culturally-tuned platform to connect mothers, community health workers, and health administrators,” said Ruchit Nagar, co-founder and CEO at Khushi Baby. “Our broader mission is to take our NFC-enabled necklace and unlock its full potential as a digital passport to connect underserved populations to health and social services. We are building and scaling in India, but also have an eye to make a sustainable, global impact by selling our integrated service and products to other countries’ Ministries of Health and INGOs.”

2. Apps4Android — Providing Talking Tags that Offer Voice Instructions for the Blind

Apps4Android, Inc., an IDEAL Group company (United States), offers an NFC-based talking label maker and reader application designed to assist visually impaired individuals. Through the use of this app, recordings can be produced and paired with specific NFC tags. The labels can then be affixed to objects, such as articles of clothing, food containers, or medication bottles. With the tap of an NFC-enabled Android smartphone, the labels play the recording associated with the particular NFC label. For example, the labels can enable a visually impaired person to reliably identify important objects and items, such as which medicine bottle they are holding and the dosage information.

Figure 1: App4Andriod was honored as a semi-finalist in the in the NFC Innovation Award program in the “Best Mobile App” category. Apps4Android’s IDEAL Talking Tags is a talking label maker/reader application for NFC-enabled smartphones running Android version 4.0. Available to users free of charge, the application can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. (Images courtesy of Apps4Andriod)

Steve Jacobs, president of IDEAL Group and CEO of Apps4Android, stated: “We’ve wanted to develop a low-cost alternative to high-priced talking label systems for a long time. With the advent of Android 4.0 and a significant increase in the popularity and use of NFC technology, our label maker/reader has now become a reality.”

In addition to talking label applications, Apps4Android is also exploring the use of NFC technology to store and retrieve cloud-based “personal preference settings” in conjunction with Raising the Floor-International’s Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) project. Ultimately, this effort will allow any individual to pick up an NFC-enabled device and, with the swipe of an NFC tag or ring, configure that device to meet that individual’s personal tech preferences simply, quickly, securely, and accurately.

According to Roger Hornstra, head of Americas Transponder Sales for Identiv Group, the company which supplied the NFC tags used during the beta testing phases of IDEAL Talking Tags: “We’re really pleased to be involved in this innovative NFC development project, which stands to benefit many millions of people.”

3. Nestech — Generating Keyless Access, Anywhere, Anytime without the Internet

Nestech Corp. , (Taiwan), specializes in developing systems for keyless door locks, access control, IP cameras and IoT objects. Nestech’s Dynamic Security System (DSS) consists of an NFC technology-based smart keyless lock and mobile application.

Figure 1: Nestech was honored as a semi-finalist in the in the NFC Innovation Award program in the “Best Mobile App” category. The company’s DSS NFC smart keyless lock and mobile application allow homeowners and small hotel managers to manage their properties remotely. (Image Courtesy of Nestech)

With NFC, Building Owners, Administrators Or Airbnb-Type Hosts Can Authorize Keyless Entry

Figure 2: Nestech offers keyless smart lock mobile applications for homes, hotels, offices and other types of building access. (Image courtesy of Nestech)

Using an NFC-enabled smartphone, owners can easily manage their NFC-based smart lock using their Nestech mobile application, providing an easy way to manage and authorize secure building access by generating access codes or issuing pass cards.

Figure 3: Nestech multi-platform system does not require Internet access, making it ideal for locations where a wireless connection is unavailable. (Image courtesy of Nestech)

“With the Nestech NFC-enabled smart keyless lock and mobile application, homeowners and small hotel managers have a simple and elegant pocket property management system, which makes it easy to manage building access anytime and from anywhere,” said Kristy Yeh, marketing manager of Nestech. “Our NFC-enabled smart lock system eliminates the need for adding new lock hardware or traveling to the door just to remove the access code. With an NFC-enabled phone, building owners, administrators or Airbnb-type hosts can authorize entry for their guests by creating a passcode through the Nestech DSS mobile application.”

NFC STARTUPS OFFER NEW TAP-BASED EXPERIENCES

1. DIMPLE — Buttons Programmed By You — Personalizing and Streamlining Daily Lives

DIMPLE Inc. (Latvia) offers NFC tag-based programmable buttons that personalize and streamline a user’s daily tasks. The highly customizable NFC sticker comes with two or four shortcut buttons that can be adhered to the back of an NFC-enabled device.

Figure 1: DIMPLE was the first-place winner in the NFC Innovation Award program in the “Best NFC Startup” category. DIMPLE.IO is a small NFC sticker with four (DIMPLE.IO Standard) or two (DIMPLE.IO Mini) buttons for Android devices. (Image courtesy of DIMPLE)

With NFC, Consumers Get An Endless Set of Personalized Options

From creating an extra play button controlling smart home devices, DIMPLE offers endless personalized options using NFC technology.

Figure 2: DIMPLE’s NFC stickers (custom mobile phone buttons) adhere to the back of your device, making it easy to operate while holding a smartphone. (Image courtesy of DIMPLE)

“DIMPLE allows mobile users to add four customizable hardware buttons to NFC-enabled Android gadgets. In essence, DIMPLE is an NFC sticker that you put on the rear side of your gadget where it is installed in close proximity of the smartphone’s NFC reader,” said Rihards Skrubis, founder of DIMPLE. “What’s most important is that the user is the one who chooses the functionality — using their NFC-enabled smartphone to make everyday tasks quicker or to save precious time by launching key apps. DIMPLE offers endless personalized options using the phone’s own energy and NFC technology.”

A plug-in framework can dramatically extend the array of choices regarding standard functionality that the companion app provides, making everyday tasks quicker and saving precious time with key apps.

2. Kuvée — Reinventing The Wine Experience By Making The Bottle Smart

Kuvée (United States) offers an NFC-enabled, connected wine dispensing system that allows users to view tasting notes, rate wines and make purchases that are shipped right to their front door. The Kuvée dispensing system, or smart bottle, serves to provide an enhanced experience for people who enjoy wine.

Figure 1: Kuvée was honored as a semi-finalist in the in the NFC Innovation Award program in the “Best NFC Startup” category. The NFC-enabled Kuvée wine dispensing system displays the wine information on the touch screen, such as how much wine is remaining and when the bottle was first opened. (Image courtesy of Kuvée).

NFC Enables IoT Devices To Become Intelligent And Connected

When the consumer inserts a Kuvée branded wine cartridge into the smart bottle, the system reads the NFC tag on the cartridge and displays the wine label on the touchscreen display. The user can navigate the user interface to discover the story of the wine or order more wine right from the bottle’s touchscreen.

Figures 2 and 3: The Kuvée wine dispensing system uses NFC technology to read the NFC tag-based wine cartridge to convey various information on the touchscreen. (Photos Courtesy of Kuvée and NFC Forum, respectively)

“Today’s consumers seek variety, convenience, and authenticity from their products, including everyday Internet-enabled objects, like the wine bottle, made intelligent and connected by technology. NFC technology extends the programming concept of object orientation to physical objects, such as Kuvée’s revolutionary NFC-enabled wine system. Kuvée’s unique system allows consumers to drink as much or as little wine they want, using our patented wine bottles to keep wine fresh for longer,” said Kuvée co-founder Geoffrey Lansberry. “Inserting an NFC-enabled bottle into the dispenser lets users learn more about the wine they’re drinking or rate a wine, enabling us to make recommendations about other wines they’ll love in the Kuvée collection.”

3. Talkin’ Things — Talking, Smart Packaging System That Protects Brands While Engaging Consumers

Talkin’ Things LLC (Poland) offers an NFC-based global smart packaging system that provides effective protection against brand-related threats. Integration of the NFC tag with product packaging enables brands to protect against counterfeiting or refilling, while also communicating and interacting with consumers on important product information.

Figure 1. Talkin’ Things was honored as a semi-finalist in the in the NFC Innovation Award program in the “Best NFC Startup” category. The company’s multi-feature system is based on NFC, RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification), cloud computing and a mobile application. (Image courtesy of Talkin’ Things)
Figures 2 and 3: With that single tap, the Takin’ Things mobile app is able to confirm that the product is genuine and has never been opened before. For consumers, this means any product with an NFC-based Takin’ Things label can quickly be identified as authentic and safe with a tap to the packaging. (Image Courtesy of Talkin’ Things and NFC Forum, respectively)

With NFC, Products And Consumers Can Engage, Right From The Retail Shelf

Talkin’ Things smart packaging system’s most important feature is offering the customer protection from damaged or expired goods. Using the mobile application, a consumer can tap on a product’s packaging to determine if it has been properly sealed and is authentic and not counterfeit. Additional mobile application features include the ability to display product directions or dosage information. Talkin’ Things protects both the brand and consumers from anti-refilling and counterfeiting thanks to each NFC tag’s four-layer security encryption system.

“Using NFC technology, Talkin’ Things Smart Packaging System makes possible to change the relationship between products and customers. Finally, products have been given a chance to engage with consumers by themselves on a shelf,” said Marcin Pilarz, CEO of Talkin’ Things. “Consumer communication features create many possibilities to develop and maintain direct and long-term relationships with consumers based on our patented Talkin’ Things Proof-of-Purchase solution.”

The Talkin’ Things solution can be applied to food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and wine and spirits industries, where product authenticity is important. The Talkin’ Things Smart Packaging System is also multifunctional for brands, providing security and logistics management features such as tracking of grey market activity, brand protection, real-time stock-taking, track and trace, and anti-theft protection.

NFC Innovations Driving New Personalized Experiences

Each of these innovations is a reminder that there is no limit to innovating with NFC technology. Since it is easy to implement, expect to see more developers and product designers turning to NFC to enable the Internet of Things and deliver compelling, personalized user experiences.

To see these innovations in action watch the NFC Innovation Award Winners and Semi-Finalists video. To learn more about how NFC offers a tap-based experience that simplifies, enriches, and improves our daily lives, visit the NFC Forum at http://nfc-forum.org/.