Near Field Communication (NFC) - a short-range wireless communication technology - is about to change the face of mobile handset usage and mobile applications where 'touch is the new click'. With the recent announcement of the four NFC Forum standard tag types, Innovision Research & Technology, developer of the NFC standard number 1 tag type format, Topaz, has launched the NFC Innovation Awards, the first UK competition aimed at finding the most innovative NFC ideas of the future.
The competition, aimed at UK-based teams, requires teams of up to four participants to produce an abstract proposing a new NFC application, and if shortlisted, a demonstration of the application for a Topaz tag used with an NFC-enabled mobile phone handset.
Topaz has a 96 Byte memory and as the smallest and lowest cost NFC tag is one of only three proprietary tag types mandated by the NFC Forum, the global standards body for NFC. Innovision believes that by learning how to use an NFC-enabled phone to efficiently encode these tags, developers will gain a valuable insight into the opportunities and challenges presented by NFC technology. One interesting challenge for competition entrants is devising an efficient use of a tag memory of 96 Bytes - for example, it could be used as a pointer to larger databases or specific Internet sites.
Competition entrants will each receive a free competition kit, comprising a set of 10 Topaz NFC tags and a Topaz data sheet. Tags are available in four form factors suitable for a variety of uses:
30mm round adhesive labels
38mm x 38mm square adhesive labels
38mm x 38mm square cards
ID1 Credit card sized cards
Entrants also need to use an NFC-enabled mobile phone handset with the software development kit, available to purchase from Glue4, a software and solutions company who is supporting the competition.
"NFC-enabled mobile applications are evolving rapidly and we felt now was the right time to see what creative design and development skills are out there that can take advantage of a technology that enables a new generation of mobile devices to communicate simply by touch," explains Innovision Research & Technology CEO, David Wollen .
"The beauty of NFC lies in its simplicity and flexibility - by integrating an NFC tag into an everyday object, individuals can simply touch an NFC-enabled device against the tag and receive relevant, specific and timely information. In effect, it makes any object smart."
The competition timing coincides with the start of the new academic year, with an entry deadline of 9th November. A panel will then judge entries and announce the shortlist on 19th November, followed by a presentation ceremony in December in London .
Competition entrants must be able to demonstrate their project and provide an abstract explaining how the project works and how it meets each of the judgement criteria. Criteria include the project's benefit to society (social); its commercial potential; the possible beneficial effect on the lives of individuals (personal); originality (novelty); and its potential for creating an effective working environment or organisation culture (collaboration), among a number of others.
Innovision's David Wollen , adds: "It's fair to say that we have some of the best engineering skills in the UK, and as a British-based company ourselves, we wanted to create a competitive environment where teams from around the country could present their ideas and come up with commercial, novel and potentially life-changing mobile applications based on NFC technology."
Examples of applications already developed using the Topaz tag include smart posters used for interactive transport timetables, information and even product download. Other use cases, such as the Seeingeyephone from VTT (outlined below), and HOTELNOVA by University of Nice , have used Topaz tags to provide support for the visually impaired, and to improve the travel experience of hotel visitors. Further information on these projects is available online via 'What We Do' on the Innovision website www.innovision-group.com.
An innovative use of NFC - case study: 'The Seeingeyephone'
In May, Innovision highlighted a novel prototype demonstration of its proprietary NFC tag Topaz (NFC Forum Type 1 Tag) called the Seeingeyephone, an innovative use of NFC developed by engineers from VTT at the Technical Research Center of Finland as part of a SmartTouch EU-project. The Seeingeyephone is designed for visually impaired people who are unable to read product information in shops. The NFC tag containing an ID and address with product-specific data, such as the price, use-by date and pack size, is simply attached to the shelf next to each product. When the customer holds their NFC-enabled phone up to the tag, the text-based information is retrieved and the phone's text-to-speech synthesiser feeds the information directly to the user in their chosen language. Simple and clever, the Seeingeyephone was recognised at the recent European NFC Competition as the 'Most Innovative NFC Proposal of the Year 2007'.
About Innovision Research & Technology plc
Innovision Research & technology plc, is leading the next generation of NFC/RFID solutions. As the leading fabless developer of Short-Range Data Communication semiconductor and system solutions, with particular focus on NFC/RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and ultra low-cost Integrated Circuit (IC) and RF electronic design, IRT is pushing cost performance to enable clients to get maximum utility for minimum cost.
The company develops innovative semiconductor technologies, ICs, RF systems (HF/UHF) and complete end product applications for mass volume commercialisation and then licenses customers for its incorporation into their own products.
At the heart of the emerging Near Field Communication (NFC) market, Innovision R&T designs and develops NFC/RFID IC solutions for the global mobile handset and consumer device sectors.
Products include Topaz, mandated by the NFC Forum as the NFC number one tag type format, Jewel for mass transit ticketing applications, and io, the world's smallest standards compatible Near-Field RFID reader.
Headquartered in the UK , Innovision R&T was listed in 2001 on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: INN ).