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Alcatel-Lucent Launching Consumer RFID Product

The tikitag system uses Near Field Communications (NFC) technology to link online applications with real-world items, enabling them to interact.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
One such application involves utilizing the tikitag as a "social business card." The user creates a Web site containing his or her social network settings. That person can then later present the tag to another individual, who can read the tag and be automatically linked to the user through whatever social networks they are both members of—such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

Another application can allow a user to direct his computer's iTunes program to play certain play lists or movies, or to perform such actions as skipping a song or pausing, by using the tikitag's USB interrogator to read tags linked to those play lists, movies or actions.

The brain of the tikitag system is the Application Correlation Server (ACS), which is Web-based. When a tikitag interrogator or NFC phone reads a tag, it transmits that tag's ID to the server, which stores and manages a database linking the tikitag tag ID and the corresponding action that tag is set to instigate—such as opening a specific Web site or application.

The tikitag labels and interrogators are currently being alpha-tested by Alcatel-Lucent employees and associates, but will be made available to the general public as beta products beginning Oct. 1. As of that date, a starter kit containing 10 tags, the USB reader and access to the ACS will be available through a number of third-party e-commerce sites, including Amazon.com.

According to Ross, as with all products and services created by Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, the tikitag system was developed so it might eventually be transitioned into a commercial product offered by a separate Alcatel-Lucent division. But what is unique about tikitag is that the platform will likely lead to many application ideas among the Web developers—and that is something Alcatel-Lucent hopes to see happen. For that reason, the firm is encouraging others to solicit application ideas on the tikitag Web site, and is also planning to make APIs available to developers in order to foster new applications. "This is one way that they [Alcatel-Lucent] could monetize tikitags," he says.

In addition to the consumer applications noted above, Alcatel-Lucent Ventures also plans to market the tikitag system to businesses. Potential business applications include employing the tags to create smart posters, so that consumers could download coupons, directional information or advertisements, or using tags attached to products to trigger warranty or registration applications.

In 2006, HP Labs announced a somewhat similar but prototypical product known as Memory Tags, which operated at 2.45 GHz and would require that consumers purchase a specialized reader to encode or read the tags (see HP Spots New Opportunities for Passive RFID). The Memory Tags would also contain a large amount of user memory, whereas tikitags are designed to hold only a unique ID. A call placed to HP to inquire about the status of the Memory Tags was not returned before press time.

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