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London Startup Seeks to Tap Into NFC Growth

With a product lineup that includes RFID tags built into beer mats, pens, business cards and refrigerator magnets, RapidNFC hopes to facilitate creative NFC-based solutions designed for mobile phones.
By Claire Swedberg
Tags: Retail
An unnamed RapidNFC customer is providing NFC smart posters to its clients, to be mounted in stairwells to boost staff physical fitness. A unique ID number on each poster links to the location data on a server. Employees who opt to take the stairs (rather than the elevator) proceed up or down the steps, tapping posters along the away with their mobile phones, and thus collecting credit. The companies have the option of then providing rewards to those who frequently use the stairs, rather than the elevator. Not only is the solution "good for health," Coote says, but "apparently, companies love it because it lowers their carbon emissions by using less electricity."

RapidNFC sells the tags, or products such as beer coasters, pens, wristbands or other products with embedded NFC tags. Most customers, however, require more than just tags, and RapidNFC, which may serve as the starting point for such companies, has developed relationships with software firms around the world, to which it directs customers so they can obtain advice regarding how their specific NFC-based concepts might be realized.

RapidNFC's Phil Coote
"A lot of companies are still in the testing or development stages," Coote says. RapidNFC provides starter kits consisting of tagged wristbands and key fobs, starting at £11.25 ($17.65), as well as a selection of plain NFC tags.

All products that RapidNFC provides contain NXP Semiconductors chips, most commonly the NTag203 model, released in 2011.

For first-time NFC users, RapidNFC also offers advice, some of which is posted on the company's Web site, indicating how to encode a tag. Coote says he is often asked about the use of RFID tags in items such as business cards with data written on the tag. He doesn't encourage this application, he notes, adding, "We strongly promote the fact that NFC tags are intended to link the user to data rather than being data themselves." The problem with writing data to the tag itself, he explains, is that "you are limited to the type of tags you can use to store static data, and you're breaking the principle that NFC is a link."

According to Coote, the amount of growth experienced by NFC technology during the next 12 months may, in some ways, depend on Apple, and on whether the iPhone maker builds NFC functionality into its latest products. To date, unlike Microsoft Windows-based or Android-based smartphones, the iPhone does not come with a built-in NFC reader. However, he notes, "The marketing people we're speaking to don't seem to care. They're happy to just go ahead," and provide the solution to Android-based phone owners. "QR codes will still be there to cover the iPhone situation." Throughout the next 12 months, he anticipates, growth will be very fast, "and if Apple comes on board, it will be even faster."

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