Dementia care is a growing concern for an aging UK population. In fact, it is such a concern that the government has recently pledged £300 million to be spent on research aimed at slowing the onset of dementia and, hopefully, finding a cure by 2025. David Cameron has went as far as to say that dementia is "one of the greatest challenges of our life time".
Many people suffering from symptoms of dementia still remain semi-independent with the support of spouses, family members, friends, neighbours, charities, local authorities and the community in general. There are more than 525,000 people in the UK diagnosed with dementia who live at home and maintain a degree of independence despite their condition.
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with NFC?
RapidNFC recently worked with a charity, Dementia Buddy, on a project to help people with dementia remain independent, but safe, within the community. The idea is to provide dementia suffers with NFC enabled wristbands, badges and hang tags. The tags are to be used as a safety net for people with dementia as they go about their day to day life.
The devices are encoded with the individual's first name and an emergency contact number, which can be clicked and called when scanned with a mobile phone.
The feedback Dementia Buddy has received, from both people with dementia and their carers', has been very positive. People with dementia want to retain their freedom, but do not want loved ones to worry about them whenever they leave the house by themselves. Carers, of course, just want the person with dementia to be safe and, ideally, to have help and support at hand if they do become lost or disorientated.
The use of NFC tags offers a good balance between these two, sometimes conflicting, desires. Local emergency services have also become involved in the project. They can now identify a dementia sufferer by the tags they carry, and know exactly what to do to get that individuals emergency contact number if need be. This is an innovative way of getting the local community and authorities involved in helping to support dementia sufferers in the community, whilst maintaining respect for their independence.
RapidNFC's position as one of the leading suppliers of NFC tags online means that we get involved in a range of events across Europe. Marketing is one of the major sectors our tags are used in and the properties of NFC tags make them ideal for connecting to consumers.
A great advantage of NFC tags is their simplicity. You touch your phone on the POS terminal, smart poster, outdoor advert or other NFC marketing tools and a mobile-friendly page pops up. This ease of use is great for delivering content as, too often, innovative 'techy' advertising techniques are confusing and lead to a negative experience with the brand in question. Furthermore, unlike QR codes and other data delivery formats where an additional app is required to interact with the content, communication with NFC is built into operating systems like Android and Windows Phone.
Another advantage of NFC is that people want to use it. If you look at a busy city bus stop, most people will have their smartphone out, ready to engage with content. In places like London, advertising company, Clear Channel, have had great success installing NFC touch points at these stops, where the combination of a long dwell time and this willingness to engage in delivered content has led to high response rates.
While NFC tags, encoded with a simple weblink, are an excellent marketing tool, they are even better when augmented with analytics. A typical analytic system consists of generating a link which then redirects to your original destination. This redirection link is used to provide analytics, while the end user only sees the destination link. Additionally these services often provide a shorter URL which is great for NFC chips with limited storage. Popular providers of this service include Google (goo.gl), Bit.ly and ClickMeter.
Countless unique links can be generated, one for each tag and all redirecting to the original destination. These links then track the 'clicks' made when a tag is touched and can sort each link by date, location, operating system and more. As each link is unique, users can easily see which locations receive the most feedback, what type of users access their content and if there are times when content delivery is most effective.
RapidNFC was recently involved in an order that made great use of link trackers. A British mobile network provider was looking to promote a security application they provided as a complementary service to their customers. Flyers were created with uniquely encoded NFC tags applied to each one. Each link then sent the users to a mobile-friendly splash page with information on the application and a download link. To the customers, the experience was seamless and encouraged them to download the app without pushing it. Through these unique links, the company was able to see the response rates while also understanding which locations were most likely to download the app.
To give you an idea of the power of these platforms, we've provided a brief introduction to them, using ClickMeter as an example. ClickMeter is great for trying this out as it offers a free service for testing and small rollouts as well as paid tiers for companies.
Shown above is ClickMeter's dashboard, where you can track the performance of your links, as well as create new tracking links. Creating new links is easy and you can easily group links by campaign, as well as adding extra features like different destinations for first clicks, passwords and maximum click caps. Once the link has been created, QR codes can be generated within the platform to be easily added to printed media.
Once a campaign is over, an expiration date can switch the destination to an alternative URL so that any tags out in public areas are no longer directed to an out-of-date page. Using this kind of platform along with NFC tags allows companies to easily deploy a fully-fledged, professional digital campaign for relatively little cost.
RapidNFC are involved in countless projects utilising NFC technology in new and innovative ways. NFC has now been introduced to the world of football in the form of access control. Season ticket holders of Cypriot first division club, Anorthosis Famagusta FC, will now have a handy NFC KeyCard for the 2015/2016 season- opposed to the generic paper tickets usually offered by football clubs.
The cards will be used to gain entry to all of Anorthosis' home games. Besides being a hi-tech solution for entry to football games it is also a lot more convenient than a standard ticket. You are far less likely to lose a KeyCard, they can be kept on you at all times throughout the duration of the season and they are far less likely to be damaged. The club will also have blue and pink junior silicone wristbands for the clubs younger supports.
Though the cards are, initially, being used to gain entry to home matches there are several potential benefits to replacing season tickets with NFC cards in the long term. Ultimately NFC tags can be used as a way to directly market to the club's most passionate fans.
Through this marketing a club could increase website traffic and merchandise sales, provide supporters with special offers, keep fans informed of all latest club developments and create a way for the club to be more interactive with their fans in general.
The idea of providing fans with a physical link to the club they love has a lot of potential! It is a very 21st century way for clubs to interact with their most important stakeholders- the fans.
There is now a suggestion that the local government are interesting introducing a "fan card" for all Cypriot fans, which would clearly be the next big step in this effort to introduce NFC to football. We here at RapidNFC think that it is a fantastic idea and wish Anorthosis the best for their up and coming season!
Asset tagging is essential for many companies or organisations who manage a large number of assets as it allows them to manage their equipment easily, keeping track of the location, status and condition of their assets. While standard asset tagging typically involves printed labels and bar codes, the globally unique ID in each NFC chip makes tags ideal for use in smart asset platforms.
NFC tags come in a variety of form factors including our Cable Tie Tags and our Industrial Disc Tags to allow the tagging of a range of asset types. Some tags can printed with an ID sequence or a QR code to aid in visual identification and so that they can be scanned by other readers. Furthermore, while other RFID asset systems can require costly equipment and infrastructure, the low cost of NFC tags, along with the ease with which readers can be purchased, means an NFC solution can be easily implemented.
In addition to our standard tags, RapidNFC have recently brought out a new type of tamper proof tag. Our tamper proof tags are designed to stop functioning when moved to prevent them being reused. Whereas earlier designs essentially disintegrated when tampered with, the new design is a lot smarter. When removed, a small part of the antenna stays on the asset, breaking the antenna and preventing the tag from being scanned. This means that the tag cannot be moved from asset to asset and, furthermore, little residue is left on the asset if the tag has to be removed. A demonstration of this tag can be seen in the video within the product page.
There are a lot of NFC apps available out there for Android devices- apps for everything! Apps for encoding, apps to alter phone settings, apps to launch apps. There is even an app which makes it impossible to turn your phone alarm off until your phone is tapped against a strategically placed NFC tag. This app was not included on the below list. It is undoubtedly useful for those of us who struggle to make it out of bed in the morning, however it can also be annoying. Extremely annoying.
Nevertheless there are some apps that anybody with an interest in NFC should definitely consider downloading:
Created by NFC chip manufacturers NXP, TagWriter should be the starting point for anybody with an interest in NFC. Through this App you can programme tags to:
- Link to URL's
- Load vCards
- Connect to WiFi networks
- Dial telephone numbers
- Link to Geo locations
- Load simple text strings
- Send text messages and emails
- Launch applications
The app has a very simple interface, making it incredibly easy to use. It also has a "protect tags" feature, so you can lock and protect the data on your tag. TagWriter should be the starting point for all your NFC uses.
For the beginners guide to using TagWriter please click here.
NFC TagWriter by NXP is available as a free download through the Play store. Click here to download.
Trigger is one of the most popular NFC apps. It is great for altering phone settings- so you can programme NFC tags to carry out the actions you usually manually change on a daily basis. Through the app you are able to programme tags to:
- Turn WiFi and Bluetooth on or off
- Switch the phone to Airplane mode
- Change mobile data settings
- Change display settings
- Send automated messages
- Start and stop applications
- Set alarms
You can also encode a tag to perform more than one function at a time, (i.e. turn Bluetooth off, turn WiFi on, set an alarm and turn the brightness of your phone down). It is a great app to experiment with and see what works for you! There is no better way to get to grips with NFC than through old fashioned trial and error, and you would be surprised how useful having automated tags can be. The only disadvantage to Trigger is that, because the commands encoded 'talk' to the app, if the app is not installed the tag won't do anything.
Trigger is available as a free download through the Play store. Click here to download.
NFC Tools, like TagWriter, is a great all-round app that you can use to programme tags with all types of data. We at RapidNFC tend to prefer TagWriter due to it's easy to use interface. That being said, NFC tools has all the functions TagWriter has, as well as an additional feature that allows you to read the unique ID of the chip. This is not something that is available on the current version of TagWriter. We recommend downloading both TagWriter and NFC Tools and seeing which one you prefer.
NFC Tools is available as a free download through the Play store. Click here to download.
TagInfo is an app developed primarily for techies and software developers- however it can also be useful for anybody with a casual interest in the technical side of NFC. TagInfo gives a thorough breakdown of all the technical information of a chip including:
- The chips manufacturer and type
- Data set information
- NDEF information and breakdown
- Unique ID of the chip
- Memory size of the chip
- Version information
- Technologies supported and ISO standard
- A comprehensive breakdown of the memory content
TagInfo and TagWriter are the ideal starting point for everybody interested in NFC- from those with a casual interest, to software developers and everybody in between.
NFC TagInfo by NXP is available as a free download through the Play store. Click here to download.
Disclaimer: unlike all the other apps on this list Tasker is not a free app. It costs £2.99 and is available to download through the Play store. Click here to download. Please note that you will also need to download "locale NFC Plugin" for this app to work with NFC. Click here to download.
Tasker works in a very similar way to Trigger- programming tags to adjust phone settings and perform various tasks. Tasker, however, has more features. A lot more. Through the app you can programme tags to perform a variety of in-depth, specialist and precise functions working with other variables. For a full run down of the different actions available please see the App page on the Play store link above. The reason why Tasker is 5th, rather than 2nd, on our list is because it is not a simple app to use. It is exceptional in regards to the amount you can programme and the overall depth of the app's capabilities- however this is not an app for a casual NFC user. If complete and absolute automation is what you are looking for, however, this is definitely the app for you!
Insta WiFi is a useful little app, with a very easy-to-use interface. Everybody has been in a situation where a friend or family member has come over and attempted to connect to the WiFi using a long password consisting of a random array of numbers and letters. It can take two or three times to get this right. And, of course, there are the usual questions: Where is the router? What number is the password sequence? Should all the letters be in capitals? Are you sure this is the right password…?
Ok, this is not a regular or serious problem. That being said, it cannot be denied that encoding a tag so visitors can tap to connect automatically to a network is a handy tool to have! And yes, you can also programme tags to connect to networks with TagWriter and NFC tools- however, Insta WiFi is a little more simple to use and can also generate QR codes for those friends who do not have NFC enabled devices. It is certainly worth a download in our opinion.
Insta WiFi is available as a free download through the Play store. Click here to download.
NFC ReTag is a clever app in what it does and how it achieves the redirection of tags. Using the unique ID of the tag the app redirects the scanning device to perform functions, launch applications or URL's, alter phone settings etc. As it uses the chips unique ID it means that if you have other, (unwanted), data locked on a tag you can re-use or recycle that tag for a different purpose regardless. This is possible as all functions are carried out through the app itself- which uses the tags unique ID rather than any data already programmed on the tag.
We do appreciate that there are uses for this app, however there are three issues. The main problem is that you need to go through the app to actually access the new data. This is somewhat inconvenient. In addition to this, if people are simply trialling tags with different data sets a simple way to avoid this problem is to keep the tag unlocked and re-programme the tag outright. If a tag is locked with data that you do not wish to use anymore another alternative may be to simply replace that tag. This way you would have full functionality without relying on access to NFC ReTag to perform the wanted function. Finally, like Trigger, the app needs to be installed for the tags to do anything, otherwise they are just blank.
This app certainly has its uses, and the way in which it uses the unique ID of the tag to achieve redirection is clever from a technical point of view, however there are other ways around the problem the app seemingly fixes. It may be that we have missed the point slightly, (the app does have very positive reviews on the Play store). If so, please do let us know!
NFC ReTag is available as a free download through the Play store. Click here to download.
It's a daily question here at RapidNFC - how do I create an NFC enabled poster - the 'smartposter'. Well it's very easy and here's how to do it.
There's a couple of options on how to NFC enabled your posters. The first is to place an NFC tag onto the surface of the poster. Typically this would be one of our pre-printed tags with an NFC logo ready to go. However, this isn't the best way to do it. The best way is to place a standard white or clear tag behind your poster.
You could then print an NFC graphic and call to action on the front of your poster creating a smooth finish and a professional look. The NFC tag will scan just fine through the poster paper providing you don't use metallic inks.
You want performance, which means you want a large tag with a strong ScanStrength. Something like the 38mm NTAG213 Clear NFC Tag will work very well.
One small trick that some people use is to place three or four tags on the back close to each other to increase the scan area. You can't increase the scan distance but by creating an 'array' of tags, you enlarge the hot spot which creates an improved user experience.
One other factor that it very important. Lock your tags ! People do know how to change the data on a tag and leaving a tag unlocked can cause a bit of a problem.
It's quite common to place posters behind glass or perspex. While the material itself will not significantly affect the performance, clearly the increased distance between the user and the tag can make scanning more difficult. The easiest approach is to make sure the poster is firmly up against the glass. The alternative is to use a 'window sticker' type of tag placed directly on the glass but this can be more complicated.
We posted a blog a while ago about what best to use in the NFC graphic. Have a look at our Improving NFC Marketing Performance blog for more information.
Final point, when the poster is going to be placed onto a metal surface, then you might need to consider using on-metal tags. These will allow the tag to function properly and RapidNFC sell specific Reverse On-Metal Tags for this purpose.
Another option, which can increase performance and often work out cheaper is to use some thick foam tape behind the NFC tags to create a real spacer gap between the NFC tag and the wall behind. A space of 5mm or more is usually enough and can often allow the use of a large regular NFC tag which will perform better than an on-metal tag.
Here at RapidNFC, we are always following the latest trends in the NFC industry; an industry that is constantly innovating and developing new features. In this article we are going to look at what we believe will be some of the key trends in the future.
As new smartphones are rolled out, we've typically seen the latest models arrive with better displays, faster processors and longer battery life, with each generation improving on the last. However, recently, smartphone development has started to plateau with new phones not necessarily being a huge improvement on their predecessors. As a recent example, look at the similarities between the HTC One M8 and M9.
This is also the case with smartphone features as more phones are coming out with a richer feature set. As such, we are seeing not just flagship phones, but also entry-level models, like the HTC Desire 510, with NFC. This should contribute to a large growth of NFC devices as more and more smartphones ship with this feature, an outcome also predicted by IHS Technology who estimated that over 1.2 billion NFC phones will be shipped in 2018.
NFC payments have greatly increased with the introduction of Apple Pay, which has helped to boost the number of retailers that accept this kind of payment. This has not only meant that Apple Pay has become risen in popularity, but also that similar services, like Google Wallet, have seen growth as described by Ars Technica.
Furthermore, with smart wearables like the Apple Watch and Jawbone's UP4 including NFC payment functionality, it seems that we will see NFC payments becoming even more popular as smart wearables become ubiquitous. One of the key advantages of wearables for NFC payments is that they can use biometric data, like heartbeat etc., to provide authentication for payments, resulting in a secure and seamless experience.
We are seeing more and more smart devices being introduced to replace typically 'dumb' appliances in houses like the Nest Protect, a smart fire alarm, and the August smart lock. These appliances are designed to connect to networks; allowing functions like changing the temperature or unlocking your door, which currently are done manually, to be carried out through an application.
Interacting with these devices is typically carried out by a smartphone and getting the two devices to communicate can require a laborious Bluetooth or WiFi setup. Using NFC as a quick communication link would be a great way of speeding this up and is something that can already be seen in Bluetooth speakers like the Libratone Zipp. Companies like NXP and EnOncean are already teaming up to showcase an NFC enabled lighting system and further developments will surely follow.
The iPhone 6 was the first iPhone to come with an NFC element, unfortunately Apple has locked it down to Apple Pay for now so it can't interact with NFC tags.
Apple has a history of being cautious with new features in their phones; when the first iPhone was released, there were no third party applications! It was only when Apple became aware of the great potential of mobile apps that they were allowed and the App Store was released. Today, there are over 1 million applications on the Store.
In a similar fashion, now that the iPhone has NFC, we believe it's only a matter of time until Apple opens it up to interact with tags. With the marketing and asset tracking platforms available to NFC, it would be odd not to. We have described some of the effects this could have in our earlier blog What Happens When iPhone NFC Opens Up.
These points should emphasise the speed at which the NFC market is expanding, with new features and developments in turn driving further innovation. While we can’t be sure what the market will look like in the coming months and years, it will only continue to become bigger and better.
There's been a lot of talk about the concept of the Internet of Things over the last few years. The essential concept being that everyday objects, such as fridges, central heating systems, coffee machines and so on are connected to the internet and become part of an interconnected web.
One of our clients, Skute - Skute.me - has taken this concept in another fascinating direction by using NFC to connect a physical 'tag' called a Skute Pod to online content such as music or videos.
Skute's real strength comes from it's ability to create a connection of physical Pods into a social network. A great example is within an event or location such as a skate park. Users can use the Skute pods containing NFC tags to allow others to connect with them in a physical way - perhaps by allowing them access to special videos or content created in that location.
It's a concept that is finding a lot of interest with advertisers and brands looking to create specialist content for events. For example, allowing users that have tapped a physical tag in a certain location to become part of a special social network and access content designed for that group. The exclusivity and geographic proximity - combined with the action of connecting with the NFC enabled Skute Pod - provides a really special user experience.
What we at RapidNFC find interesting about the project is this connection between the concept of the Internet of Things and the 'thing' itself being a changeable and movable object. Being able to attach a virtual link to any physical item or geopgraphic point via the NFC Pod.
As we always say - RapidNFC are proud to be involved in so many groudbreaking projects. Skute is certainly one of those.
Find out more information at Skute.me
Not surprisingly, RapidNFC believe that NFC, compared to similar technologies such as QR codes and Bluetooth Beacons, provides the best overall user experience. Now, a consumer survey carried out by Strategy Analytics and recently reported in NFCWorld, has concluded that US consumers preferred NFC technology to QR codes and iBeacons by a significant amount in every aspect.
The study determined that once consumers had actually experienced using NFC in a retail environment, 75% of those surveyed were 'very satisfied their experience [using NFC]'.
The main points of the survey were as follows :
- 75% of US consumers surveyed were 'very satisfied with their experience [using NFC]', compared to a 53% satisfaction rate QR codes.
- 50% preferred to 'retrieve product information' using NFC, compared to 23% for QR codes and just 10% for Bluetooth beacons.
- 56% preferred to 'access information on large products' using NFC, compared with 23% for QR codes and just 7% for Bluetooth beacons.
- 61% preferred to “order parts and accessories for products” using NFC, compared with 20% for QR codes.
- 43% preferred to “access in-store Wi-Fi and view deals and rewards” using NFC, compared to 25% for QR codes and just 14% for Bluetooth beacons.
So what is it about NFC that consumers preferred so much ?
One of the many benefits of NFC is the level of control the consumer has. You cannot accidently interact with an NFC tag or reader. It is a very deliberate act of holding your phone in close proximity. Bluetooth Beacons tend to push data onto the consumer which can often be unwanted and irritating - it's been compared to receiving spam email.
Consumers would naturally be less comfortable with something they do not have much control over and understandably, people are a lot more comfortable with a technology they have to deliberately interact with to access the data.
QR codes tend to have alignment issues when people attempt to scan them and if the data is large or somewhat complex it can often struggle to scan. This slightly awkward user experience doesn't compare favourably to the typically slick NFC user experience.
Ultimately, NFC simply feels like a more dynamic technology when compared to QR codes and the effortlessness of scanning a NFC tag makes the whole consumer experience a lot more straightforward and enjoyable. Consumers do not want a struggle to retrieve data, they want the transition to as smooth and instant as possible.
What is the benefit for companies using NFC?
Whilst the consumer may be in control of how they interact with NFC marketing campaigns and promotions, there are also benefits to companies who do not push data onto the consumer. When a tag is scanned the brand knows that the user has made a conscious effort to interact with their promotion, and that therefore the user is in some way interested in that promotion, brand or marketing message.
Over time, NFC marketing campaigns can become very powerful way to know how interactive consumers are with a particular marketing campaign, and, ultimately, what campaigns are more effective than others.
We've been looking this year at hardware solutions for our customers. RapidNFC don't sell hardware and have no plans to, but clearly no NFC solution can exist without some hardware/software solution.
The vast majority of our customers are using NFC with mobile phones - mostly on Android but some with Windows phones. Hopefully Apple will join the party later this year. Many Apps are cloud based but the hardware and development is managed using an off the shelf mobile handset. It's an extremely powerful and cost-effective solution combining NFC, WiFi, GPS, flexible operation system and so on.
However, we also work with customers using PC, Arduino and Raspberry Pi based systems building solutions from scratch. We are seeing some clever, flexible and interesting solutions starting to emerge.
RapidNFC is one of Europe's most experienced NFC companies and a leading global provider of NFC tags and products and as such, is uniquely placed as a company people turn to for advice on how best to implement their NFC application or use case.
We thought we'd take a look here at one company that illustrates the type of prototype and development that is making NFC use easier. One of our clients, GainLoyalty, recently showed us a new prototype they have produced, an NFC Remote Antenna. Their full blog post, along with accompanying video, can be found on their Gainloyalty website.
The prototype consists of two coils coupled together that can be used to transmit signals between an NFC reader/writer and an NFC tag. As it is a passive instrument no batteries are required and it can be easily setup by placing the NFC reader (typically a NFC phone or tablet) onto the larger coil. An NFC tag can then be touched to the smaller coil and it will be read by the reader.
As it is lightweight setup, it could be easily implemented into a variety of situations, and most kinds of NFC tablets or phone could be inserted into the device. Furthermore, a small increase in the read distance has been measured when using the remote antenna rather than a standalone tablet.
While still in prototype stage, it has already gained attention from a number of organisations looking to trial it out. We can see plenty of use cases at tradeshows, events or employee control; situations where it may not be ideal to swipe everyone's NFC tag with a device. Using this remote antenna, attendees could easily swipe their own card on the reader terminal, while the NFC device can be lifted from the antenna setup if any other functions, like the camera, need to be used.
New NFC products, comments, general views and other opinions about NFC tags, NFC phones and all things NFC !Tweets by @RapidNFC