Innovation That Matters

Connecting online and off with rfid for the masses

Work & Lifestyle

The online and offline worlds are becoming increasingly interconnected, as our sister site recently noted. Now, a new venture from Alcatel-Lucent is using a version of RFID to give consumers the ability to make such connections for themselves. Released into beta earlier this month, tikitag uses short-range, high-frequency RFID to let consumers and third-party application developers connect everyday items to online content or applications. To tap the connection, users of the technology need only touch a compatible device such as a cell phone to an item tagged with a corresponding sticker. Parents, for example, can use tikitag to link their toddler’s teddy bear to an online story about that same bear; museum visitors can wave an enabled mobile phone at a painting to call up the painter’s Wikipedia profile. In a business/logistics setting, meanwhile, a cleaning company could use tikitag to record that a room has been successfully cleaned by touching an enabled mobile phone to a tikitag-linked sticker that has been placed in the room. Such connections are made possible by the tikitag Application Correlation Server, which directs enabled devices (computers or mobile phones) to access the appropriate online content and applications when they touch a tag. Tikitag uses technology known as Near Field Communications (NFC), which operates at 13.56MHz and covers distances less than 4 cm–as opposed to the longer-range, ultra high-frequency RFID used by many retail chains. NFC is already built into several cell phones from Nokia and others, and a tikitag starter kit, available from both tikitag and for USD 49.95, contains one USB-enabled RFID reader and 10 RFID tag smart stickers. Client software for most operating systems is available by download, with a Linux version currently in development. Users of the technology also get access to a community website where they can create, share and rate new and off-the-shelf tikitag applications. Initial examples already available for download include one that lets users link physical souvenirs with online photo albums; another lets them steer an online music services player to perform preprogrammed actions via a tikitagged object. A raft of other ideas are also listed on the site, ready for developers to implement using the product’s flexible API. Anthony Belpaire, general manager of Alcatel-Lucent’s tikitag venture, explains: “Over the last few years there has been explosive growth in the range and types of online content–much of it related to real world objects, events or activities. But how do you connect this online content with a person’s business card, for example, or a concert poster, or a work of art? Tikitag provides this missing link.” By supplying a constant stream of new ways to connect the online and offline worlds, tikitag may just be the ultimate digital lifestyle lubricant. One to watch–and try out!



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