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New tikitag Service to Use NFC to Connect Consumers

tikitag is a new venture that will promote connecting consumers to web-based information, and is using near field communications (NFC) RFID technology to do it. The Alcatel-Lucent venture will soon release development kits and launch its service to support consumer and enterprise applications for NFC cell phones and other devices.
Sep 17, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 17, 2008—tikitag is a soon-to-be-launched consumer service that will use near field communication (NFC) technology to connect physical objects with online information and applications. Its founders envision consumers around the world using NFC-enabled cell phones and other devices to read tagged objects and be connected to online information, games and promotions. To demonstrate an example of how the service works, the company has uploaded this YouTube video.

The service is scheduled to launch on October 1, 2008, when starter kits containing an NFC reader, 10 tikitags and software will be available on e-commerce websites for $49.95, and additional NFC tags can be purchased in quantities of 25 for about $29.

An application programming interface (API) and other resources have already been distributed to about 40 third-party software developers to spur application development. The tikitag initiative is led by Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, which commercializes research developed in Bell Labs. tikitag was officially announced at the prestigious DEMOfall 08 conference held last week in San Diego.

Paul Ross of Alcatel-Lucent told RFID Update that tikitag is primarily seen as a consumer service, but developers have identified some potential enterprise applications. For example, a cleaning service could apply tikitags at customer sites and require cleaners to read them to document that the worker visited the location.

"We see applications for both consumers and enterprise," Ross said. "It really comes down to what ideas people come up with."

Ross said there was strong interest from software developers at the DEMO conference. Some of the applications being developed now and expected to be available at launch include a bicycle rental system, associating tags with iTunes commands, links to social networking sites, and other web-based apps.

Bar code technology has been promoted for tikitag-like applications in the past, and automaker MINI USA used RFID to trigger customized billboards in a marketing campaign (see RFID Enables Personalized Billboard Displays), but such systems have not attracted a large user base. Today NFC technology is primarily used for contactless payment applications, most commonly for public transport ticketing, but leading credit card companies and others are promoting the technology for use in retail environments. The complexity of the ecosystem -- including cell phone and other NFC device makers, retailers, banks, payment processing companies and other institutions -- is frequently cited as a major barrier to increased adoption. Market research firm ABI Research sees these barriers lessening (see ABI: Signs of NFC Payment System Convergence), and tikitag feels the time is right for mainstream adoption.

"We're in a sweet spot to add value for people who are using NFC," said Ross. "Some of the market research we've seen is pretty compelling. For example, one projection says 40 percent of mobile phones will be NFC-enabled in three to five years."

In April research firm Strategy Analytics acknowledged the slow pace of NFC ecosystem development but predicted one in five cell phones will be NFC-enabled by 2012. Juniper Research has predicted NFC adoption will have a strong uptick in 2011 (see NFC RFID to Power $75+ Billion in Transactions in 2013).
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