Many of us have reached the age when a pair of spectacles mislaid or a wallet lost, can seem like a larger crisis than all the weighty matters discussed at 9 pm on TV. Time was, when we had to round up a posse of the unwilling near-and-dear and send them out in search parties to retrieve our missing possessions. Thanks to some innovative extensions of wireless technology, today there is a better way. You click an app on your phone and a tag attached to your prized possession, announces where it is hidden.
But it is not just geriatrics like us, who should welcome these new tools to worry-free living: For the young and restless, smart tags enable levels of convenience that were hitherto undreamt of. You enter a restaurant and tap your table with your phone. The menu opens on your handset, with any preset restrictions you may have set — like vegetarian or diabetic.
These may seem like trivial applications — that is because the smart tags story is still a work in progress, limited only by one’s imagination and creativity. The trend is largely driven by two technologies: Near Field Communication and Bluetooth. NFC is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between devices over five to 10 cm distance. NFC tags are thin, coin-sized circuits which can be fashioned like stickers. They are passive i.e., they have no power source of their own and draw it wirelessly from another active NFC device. Tags, can typically store from 100 to 1000 bytes of information and these can be programmed to do just about anything: transferring pictures, text and video links. You can embed an NFC tag on any surface — in a brochure for example — and it will open up an entire multimedia document. Such tags are now available by the dozen, for around Rs 50 and are reusable.
Programming them on your phone using special NFC apps is quite easy — so you can tweak the tags to do a variety of things. Some wireless speakers use NFC to connect to the phone. The biggest use of NFC tags may be in the payments business. Many points of sale now allow you to pay by bringing your phone close to the NFC station: All your credit card information remains secure.
The more basic use of tags to track items, people and pets, is best done using Bluetooth. This is usually good for 10 metres or so. Bluetooth tags are larger and stay in constant communication with a Bluetooth enabled device. Indian companies have launched some useful versions.
Such wireless ways to connect have overtaken technologies like Bar codes, Quick Response Codes, even Radio Frequency ID (RFID) because they are simpler, not necessarily better. In today’s tech duniya — your solution must work for dummies — or die.
Evotag: Find it fast!
A Gurgaon-based startup, Evoxyz Technologies has made a name in micro location technologies and launched arguably India’s first Bluetooth tracker, Evotag. The tiny rubber encased device needs to be paired with the Evotag app on your phone. This allows you to set up one of many use scenarios: locate any item to which you have attached the tag; locate a pet; know when your child strays away from you; locate baggage when it comes near you — on an airport conveyor belt. You can ask the lost item to announce itself — with a ring. In another useful situation, you can stick the tag on your front door and programme your phone to ring if the door is opened.
In fact the tag is a bahuroopi that you can train for any number of situations. With the tag you also get an LED torch-keychain to which you can attach the tag if you like. It costs Rs 1,399 — a small price to pay for peace of mind. It is available later this week from online portals or from the parent company.