RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Smartrac unveils Midas+ NFC inlay designed for gaming ••• Tagstand to distribute TapTrack Bluetooth NFC readers ••• Whistler Blackcomb resort adds RFID-timed hiking trails ••• Kontakt.io beacons help boost Carrefour store's mobile app usage ••• RFID-enabled payment system to encore at Squamish Valley Music Festival.

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Tagstand, TapTrack;
Whistler Backcomb;
Kontakt.io; and

Smartrac Unveils Midas+ NFC Inlay Designed for Gaming

Smartrac has announced its Midas+, a Near Field Communication (NFC) inlay designed for products with space restrictions—such as toys, collectible cards, electronic gadgets and other accessories—that benefit from authentication.

Smartrac's Tap and Play Demo Area

The new inlay is made with NXP Semiconductors' NTAG213 chip, which debuted in 2012 (see NXP Releases New NFC Tag Chips for New Applications). The NTAG213 has 144 bytes of memory and features unique ID (UID) mirror functionality, enabling the chip's serial number to be mirrored as part of its encoded URL address. The mirroring function allows a company to determine which tag is being read by a consumer's smartphone or other RFID-reading device, thereby enabling analytics regarding the use rate of any specific tag and its location. Without mirroring, a company has no way of knowing which tag was used to access a URL. Mirroring, however, allows a tag to be encoded not only to direct an NFC-reading device to a specific URL, but to do so with its own unique serial number, so that a record can be maintained of which specific tag was used.

With a die-cut size of 13.5 millimeters by 21 millimeters (0.53 inch by 0.83 inch) and an antenna size of 11.5 millimeters by 19 millimeters (0.45 inch by 0.75 inch), Smartrac reports, Midas+ is suited for electronics and gaming applications for which inlays need to be embedded in very limited space. A new antenna design, made from aluminum, has increased the inlay's reliability and performance, the company says.

Smartrac Midas+

Midas+ NFC inlays are based on the ISO 14443 A standard, and are also compatible with NFC Forum standards. The inlays, which come in wet inlay format by default, are available now.

Smartrac also announced that it has opened its Tap and Play – Global Experience Center in Tampere, Finland. Run in cooperation with partners like Cartamundi, NXP Semiconductors and Twinsprite, the facility is designed to be a global knowledge center dedicated to the use of NFC technology in mobile gaming, Smartrac explains.

According to Smartrac, mobile games will grow to account for one-third of the global games industry in 2015, making it that sector's fastest-growing segment, based on market findings from Newzoo Research, and the global mobile market reached $24.5 billion in 2014. NFC technology is increasingly contributing to that development, according to Smartrac, as it bridges the gap between video and mobile games and the physical world in an effortless and exciting way. NFC-enabled physical toys and collectibles can act as active elements in console and mobile gaming.

The Tap and Play – Global Experience Center demonstrates the latest technologies and state-of-the-art use cases, with the latter focused on monetizing models for gaming. It features a demo installation of Twinsprite's NFC toy management platform (see Twinsprite Uses NFC RFID to Link Toys to Game Apps), plus several demonstrations supplied by industry partners like Calm Island, Cartamundi (see Smartrac Sees RFID's Future in the Cards, the Clouds and the Cosmos), NXP, Parrot and others. During the grand opening on May 26, the center also illustrated its secondary purpose, as professionals from around the toy and gaming industry met with independent game developers from Scandinavia in order to share creative ideas and know-how.

Tagstand to Distribute TapTrack Bluetooth NFC Readers

NFC solutions specialist TapTrack has announced a partnership to distribute RFID readers and Near Field Communication (NFC) event solutions through Tagstand.com, a provider of NFC products and custom tags. Known as the TappyBLE, the reader communicates with an iPad or Android tablet via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. Suitable for cashless payments, gaming, medical devices, access control, and social-media activation, the TappyBLE is the first of a series of readers being developed at TapTrack, with Wi-Fi and GSM models on the way.

TapTrack's TappyBLE reader

Although NFC technology is becoming more popular in mobile devices, TapTrack notes, many tablets, particularly iPads, do not include the feature. Currently, the company explains, only USB and audio jack readers are available, and the development kits supplied require time and NFC expertise to work with. Moreover, Android tablets cannot be charged while an NFC reader is connected via USB, making it infeasible in any kiosk applications. The TappyBLE is designed to bring NFC capabilities to tablets that lack NFC as a factory feature.

According to TapTrack, the TappyBLE contains all of the NFC middleware required to easily add NFC tag reading and writing functionality to non-NFC devices. This includes automatic NDEF reading, parsing, and writing (the TappyBLE automatically converts any data to the NDEF format). Full encryption (3DES and AES), DESFire support, and smartcard authentication are also supported by the reader's firmware. The NFC middleware can reduce development time by months, and can be powered independently of the tablet, thereby freeing up the USB port for continuous charging, the company explains. The TappyBLE supports ISO 14443A, 14443B, 18092, and ECMA 340 peer-to-peer standards. It is available now, priced at $225.

"By providing a simple interface for everything from simple tag detection to NFC passport decoding, the TapTrack readers are ideal tools for those customers that don't want to develop a lot of NFC middleware from scratch," said Tim Wang, Tagstand's CEO, in a prepared statement.

Whistler Blackcomb Resort Adds RFID-Timed Hiking Trails

The Whistler Blackcomb mountain resort, in Whistler, British Columbia, is adding RFID to its summer activities, following the debut of RFID lift tickets on its ski slopes during the winter.

Using RFID-enabled lift passes that can be purchased online or at the resort's guest relations department, visitors will be able to track their start and finish times on select alpine hiking trails. Guests can save their times to their online profiles, allowing them to track personal bests and compete with friends. Whistler Blackcomb will also set elite running and walking times on select timed trails, so as to provide a benchmark for guests to compete against.

The resort is installing three RF Ideas PCProx Plus POE readers on summer hiking trails. A reader—either one that will hardwired into the resort's local area network (LAN), or one that is solar-powered and will communicate via cellular networks—will be placed at the peak of Whistler Mountain, and at the top of the Emerald chairlift, as well as on Blackcomb Mountain, near the Peak 2 Peak gondola terminal.

Kontakt.io Beacons Help Boost Carrefour Store's Mobile App Usage

Kontakt.io, a startup provider of beacon hardware, as well as back-end and software-development services, has announced that a store operated by multinational retailer Carrefour in Tunisia saw a big boost in mobile app engagement when it added Bluetooth beacon technology, along with proximity and content features, to one of its mobile apps. User engagement with the application has jumped by 400 percent, Kontakt.io reports.

Pixels Trade, a Swiss interactive agency, pitched Carrefour on the potential of adding context to the existing mobile app, and Carrefour decided to give it a try, the company explains. Pixels Trade deployed approximately 50 Bluetooth beacons from Kontakt.io at one store in Tunisia, and then integrated the existing app with Kontakt.io's application programming interface (API). The goal of the project, which launched in October 2014, was to enhance customer experience, boost engagement and, eventually, increase sales.

Kontakt.io beacons enriched the app and Carrefour shopping experience with new features, according to Kontakt.io, including welcoming a shopper once he or she enters a store, suggesting products based on previous or current purchases, and displaying coupons.

Within seven months, the quantity of the store's app users increased by 600 percent, the amount of time customers spent on the app increased by 400 percent, and the proximity data gave Carrefour a sample of data indicating where the shoppers traveled throughout the store, and in what order. This helped the store to improve what it offers, Kontakt.io notes, and indicated where to further increase the store's profitability and opportunity to build customer loyalty.

RFID-enabled Payment System to Encore at Squamish Valley Music Festival

RFID will again make an appearance at this year's Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF). The technology will enable attendees to more easily manage their time and money during the event, to be held on Aug. 7-9, in British Columbia. The music festival is offering such features as new ticket-payment plans, wearable tech for an onsite cashless-payment option, and the expansion of its interactive mobile app.

Intellitix, a provider of RFID access-control and cashless-payment solutions, is supplying RFID technology and support, according to a spokesperson for the event. Last year, the music festival used Intellitix's IntelliPay technology in conjunction with RFID wristbands provided by Precision Dynamics Corp. (see PDC Announces Two New RFID Wristbands, Partnership for Squamish Valley Music Festival). At this year's event, attendees will be able to use their RFID wristbands to securely pay for food, drinks and merchandise throughout the festival grounds, including in the campgrounds and at vendor sites. The app allows users to add credit to their wristbands.

IntelliPay, which can be integrated with access-control and social-media RFID technology, supports auto top-up (reload), family accounts, real-time reports and reconciliation, transferring of credit between accounts, automatic refunds, integrated smartphone apps, tipping and payment with multiple currencies. There will be more than 200 IntelliPay systems at the event, according to Intellitix. The company's access-control systems will be used at festival entrances, and Intellitix RFID-enabled check-in and photo stations throughout the grounds will enable guests to share their experiences on social media in real time, without requiring a smartphone.

The SVMF is working with Vancouver-based mobile event technology firm Eventbase, which has provided the official apps for other festivals, including Voodoo Experience and South by Southwest (see A Thousand Beacons Will Help SXSW Attendees Connect). The SVMF app is designed to help music fans explore the lineup and schedule shows, navigate festival grounds with the interactive map, and share their experiences via tight social-media integrations. The app will also feature a rich-media showcase and the festival's Spotify playlist, enabling audiences to discover new artists and keep track of their favorites.