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Project Ingeborg Uses RFID to Bring Free Books to the Masses

A pair of Austrian innovators developed and deployed a solution that allows people to download books and other works in the public domain, and are now offering the solution to others for free.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 07, 2012A journalist and a software engineer in Austria have joined forces to develop a free plug-in software enabling users to develop applications for reading NFC tags at no charge. The duo first developed the Pingeb.org solution to take advantage of the NFC function in a newly acquired phone, while serving as a virtual library for the town of Klagenfurt. The resulting system is now also being employed to promote local artists.

The idea for the project was conceived on Apr. 13, 2011, recalls Georg Holzer, a freelance newspaper journalist who covers news related to technology, including mobile phones. That was the day that he and a friend, software engineer Bruno Hautzenberger, were looking at Holzer's new NFC-enabled Samsung phone and considering what that NFC technology could be used for. The problem, he says, was that they could find nothing they could do with it in the southern Austria town of Klagenfurt, so they decided to develop a solution. Klagenfurt, with a population of approximately 100,000, lacks a central library, so the two men decided to address that situation by bringing books with local appeal to the town's population. To that end, they accessed books at Project Gutenberg, a Web site that provides free e-books, including transcriptions of works that have fallen out of copyright.

Project Ingeborg's creators—Georg Holzer (left) and Bruno Hautzenberger

For the use of NFC technology, the partners consulted with Josef Preishuber-Pflügl, the CTO and business unit manager for RFID at CISC Semiconductor, who discussed various details with them, such as which tags would operate best on metal. Initially, they received Identive RFID labels made with NXP Semiconductors' NTAG203 passive 13.56 MHz RFID chips, as a donation from NXP. They found, however, that the Identive labels did not function well when attached to metal poles, so they also acquired Confidex NFC Metal Surface labels made with NXP's Mifare Classic 1K 13.56 MHz passive RFID chips. The RFID labels were attached to large yellow stickers on which they also printed QR codes, along with the words "Handy Hier Auflegen" (German for "Apply Your Mobile Phone Here"). They then attached a total of 70 yellow stickers to poles and other objects throughout the city. Each NFC tag and QR code was encoded with a URL that directs a user's phone to a Web site that then redirects the handset to specific content, such as a book.

Project Ingeborg was named after Ingeborg Bachmann, a Klagenfurt author, and its launch coincided with the city's Bachmann Prize event, also known as the Festival of German-Language Literature. Holzer and Hautzenberger placed the tags on bus-stop poles, lampposts, windows, walls and doorways, which could direct users to books that might relate to the section of the city in which particular tags were located. For example, the tag that takes a user's phone to Der Mörder (The Murderer), a novella written by Arthur Schnitzler, was placed near the city's police station.

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