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Ocho Launches Smart Tray for Keys, Wallets and Other Items

The startup company's Ocho Pad comes with a built-in NFC reader, as well as NFC RFID tags to apply to keys, phones, wallets or other personal items, and a cloud-based server to manage actions regarding items placed on it.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 26, 2014

Chicago-based startup Ocho has developed a device that acts as a Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled tray, to help users track keys, wallets, cell phones and other items in their home or office. The company launched the technology this week on Kickstarter, with long-term plans to develop partnerships with large retailers that could sell the product at their stores.

The Ocho device (named for the Spanish word for the number 8—the developers' initial number of potential use cases), comes in two sizes (the Pad and the Mini) and has a built-in NFC reader, as well as a Wi-Fi transmitter. When an RFID-tagged item or an NFC-enabled phone or tablet is placed on the Pad or Mini, the device captures that item's unique ID number and forwards that data to a cloud-based server via the user's Wi-Fi router. This prompts other actions, such as sending a text message or issuing a visual or audible alert to remind him to plug in the charger, or sending a text message to a family member letting her know who has arrived home, based on the tag ID interrogated.

The Ocho Pad
The solution was developed by Kenneth Mages and Ocho's CEO, Don Leung. The two entrepreneurs (Mages in Chicago, and Leung in Hong Kong) have spent the past several years collaborating on researching and developing the solution. Mages has been developing payment solutions for approximately 15 years, he says, and was the founder and CTO of NFC Data, for which he developed an NFC-based wallet or key fob. Because the deployment of NFC payment infrastructure (such as point-of-sale NFC readers, as well as NFC readers in phones) has been sluggish, he says, he and Leung began working on other solutions during the past two years, based on the NFC hardware they had already developed. The duo began investigating ways in which the technology could provide the greatest benefit to consumers. "This is hardware we're really proud of," he states, "and we wanted to put it in a package that has function."

NFC technology is commonly developed around the concept of prompting a response to an action, Mages notes, based on an NFC read or "touch," though he and Leung were interested in offering a solution that would activate a response if a particular tag was not read. For example, he says, the Ocho system, with data managed on a cloud-based server, can be programmed to identify whether a set of keys was not returned to the Pad when it should have been, or if a phone was not plugged into the device's built-in USB charger. It can also use the presence of a tag to create a response. If a user forgot to take out the garbage, for instance, he could input a message into the system that would be sent to his daughter only after she placed her own house keys on the Pad (indicating she had returned home), asking her to take out the garbage for him.

Kenneth Mages
"We hunkered down in September to make this product," Mages says, and launched the Kickstarter page this week to begin accepting sales. The software was developed by Anthony Garvan, who is now the company's lead software developer.

The Ocho Pad, which measures 11.8 inches by 8.18 inches, is large enough to hold a wallet, a phone, a tablet, a laptop or keys, while the Ocho Mini, which measures 8 inches by 5.2 inches, is intended primarily for keys. Both versions, manufactured by Ocho, include an NFC reader (Mages says the company is vendor-neutral and will work with multiple makes and models of NFC readers and tags), and an infrared (IR) sensor to detect whether something is on the tray—for individuals who prefer not to use NFC technology—along with a USB connection for charging phones or other devices. It also has Wi-Fi technology that allows the Pad and Mini to communicate directly with Ocho's server, where the user's account is stored and instructions related to read data prompt specific actions.

USER COMMENTS

Kenneth Mages 2014-03-26 06:45:34 PM
Nice, thanks!

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