If you were among those watching (or reading) Apple’s live event on September 9, you’re in good company. People are incredibly excited about the iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, Apple Pay, and the Apple Watch. But what I’m most excited about is that contactless technology — in this case, near field communication (NFC) — has gained acceptance from all major handset vendors. This is game changing. Contactless technology, like NFC, allows people to use their mobile devices to easily and cheaply connect the physical and digital worlds, and now we have broad acceptance from all major players.
The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) — really, the Internet of EVERYTHING — means that all everyday items are becoming connected in our modern world. NFC offers a low-cost and secure way for sensors to be connected to the Internet, even if only for a moment. Imagine connecting toys, cosmetics, foods, furniture, clothing — in fact, anything — to the Internet momentarily, and enabling a two-way exchange of information. We could prove that an item is genuine, track location via GPS, register a product, send targeted advertising and information — there are literally hundreds of exciting use cases.
Contactless tags are, fundamentally, low-cost secure computers with software, storage, wireless communication, a firewall, optional inputs and output, etc. They can be embedded in stickers, key chains, mobile devices, and almost any everyday item. They can gauge temperature, detect tampering, record information, authenticate themselves to you, authenticate for you, and much more. The difference is that they come alive when brought in range of a NFC reader or directly by a power source — even paper-thin batteries. NFC readers are small powered modules that can be embedded in many different devices and form factors, such as mobile devices, electronic toys, or payment terminals.
So now that Apple — and its partners in payment, like Disney — have helped to usher in the new era for NFC, where does the future lead? At Identiv, we’ve been passionate about solutions for everyday items for some time and we’re keeping that passion rolling. We already have the baseline: the R&D, manufacturing capabilities, digital certificate technology, know-how, and a strong customer base. Where does the future lead? It feels pretty limitless, standing side-by-side with our customers, who are already innovating. While other companies are using this technology to focus on payments, we’re looking after the trillions of everyday items that are calling out to be connected.
An incredibly cool example of this technology is Identiv and SteadyServ® Technologies’ customized iKeg™ NFC Tag. The iKeg system is a mobile, SaaS-based inventory and order management system for the beer industry that provides real-time intelligence for retail establishments and distributor sales staff via an app for mobile devices, in addition to a web SaaS portal. It provides retailers with up-to-the-minute visibility into their current inventory of keg beer sold, as well as consumption metrics for a particular brand of beer. The key to the system is the Identiv-customized iKeg NFC Tag, which conveniently attaches to a beer keg, similar to the way in which airline baggage tags are attached to checked-in luggage.
We’ve spent the time building this technology, we’ve spent the money investing in it, because we passionately believe in the potential. And now with Apple’s announcement, there is no doubt that NFC will be a major platform as more and more everyday items become connected through mobile devices. We can even use this technology to store an identity that can be used to get rid of passwords, encrypt email, or provide secure access to a building. But that’s a story for another time.
Welcome to the modern world — the new era of connected everyday items — the Internet of EVERYTHING.