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Tikitag Becomes Touchatag, Adds Business Apps
The renamed system has created applications allowing consumers and business people to quickly access information on their NFC-enabled phones.
Feb 23, 2009—When first announced in late 2008, Alcatel-Lucent's tikitag RFID tag and reader offering was targeted mostly at consumers, though business applications were in the works as well (see Alcatel-Lucent Launching Consumer RFID Product). Now, roughly six months later, the system has been relaunched with a new name—touchatag—and a new, sharper focus on business applications, ranging from electronic payments and interactive marketing to workforce solutions and information-gathering at events.
Touchatag hardware consists of a small interrogator (roughly the size of a deck of cards, but half the thickness) that connects to a computer through a USB port, and small adhesive passive tags that comply with the 13.56 MHz and ISO 14443 air-interface standards, as well as the Near Field Communications (NFC) protocol, an RFID platform designed for short-range secure wireless transmissions. A touchatag can also be read by placing it very close to an NFC-enabled cell phone. Nokia sells its 6212 handset with NFC in the United States, while Motorola, Samsung and other handset makers offer them in other countries.
The idea behind the offering is that consumers or business users will employ the interrogator to read a unique ID number encoded to each tag, then associate it with online content, such as a URL, or with an online application. Presently, developers have created several applications, which include applying a number of tags to a cube and then associating each tag with a different iTunes control command, such as play, pause or shuffle songs, or with a different genre of music to play.
So by reading the tag, the touchatag interrogator can bridge the physical tag with the virtual world. Although NFC phones can be used for simple commands, such as launching a URL without having to type its address into the phone's Web browser, the software required to enable phones to run applications is still in development, says Toon Coppens, touchatag's founder at Alcatel-Lucent.
New to touchatag is an ability to read QR bar codes—2-D bar codes that can be encoded with more data than conventional bar codes, and that can also be decoded by a cell phone equipped with a camera or QR bar-code scanner. To bridge QR codes with touchatags, users can associate the two identifiers when encoding them with the same URL. When utilizing a cell phone to read either the QR code or, if the phone can read NFC tags, the touchatag, the cell phone will launch the same URL.
The software engine that runs touchatag is the Application Correlation Server (ACS), a Web-based service that manages the link between an RFID tag or QR code and a corresponding action to be initiated. When it reads a tag, the touchatag interrogator or NFC phone automatically connects with the ACS, which then directs the phone or computer linked to the reader to access the appropriate online content and applications. (Click here for a demonstration video.)
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