NFC energy harvesting e-ink display

All the components have been in place for a while, so this comes as no surprise:

   E-ink displays that only need energy to switch but not to hold an image
+ RFID / NFC technology that powers passive tags via radio
+ Energy-harvesting technology that captures and stores energy from ambient radio signals
= Ideal pervasive display (no need for batteries or wired power sources)

“…This paper describes a bistable display tag that, from an energy standpoint, is capable of perpetual operation. A commercial off-the-shelf NFC-enabled phone generates RF signals carrying both the information and energy necessary to update the display. After the update is complete, the display continues to present the information with no further power input.”

Dementyev, A., Gummeson, J., Thrasher, D., Parks, A., Ganesan, D, Smith, J.R and Sample, A.P (2013). Wirelessly Powered Bistable Display Tags. Proceedings of UbiComp 3013, 8-12 september, 2013, Zurich. Available


NFC luggage tags


“Using the British Airways mobile app, passengers will be able to hold their NFC phone to the reusable luggage tag to automatically update its e-ink display with a tracking barcode, flight details and an easy-to-see view of the bag’s destination. Customers can then have their electronic tag scanned at the bag drop, going straight through security.”

Source: NFC World

Object identification and interaction

Source: Rukzio (2010)

Object identification is a key challenge in ubiquitous annotation. Rukzio (2007) gives an overview of common and not-so common technologies that can be used to identify objects and places and to discover and interact with related digital services. Various other technologies have since been explored in the context of object identification and/or communication with mobile devices.

Source: Harrison, Xiao and Hudson(2012)

Harrison, Xiao and Hudson (2012) developed Acoustic Barcodes, structured patterns of notches on a small plastic strip which produce a complex sound when swiped with something hard, e.g. a fingernal or mobile phone, that can be resolved to a binary ID. Acoustic tags are cheap to produce, don’t consume power and offer simple interaction. (2012) uses sound to transmit data in “tiny pieces of music” without the need to pair devices beforehand. As sound travels only so far, the technology can be used to identify objects and locations. Speakers can be cheaply integrated with almost any material and today’s mobile phones have speakers and microphones as standard.


Sources: (Estimote Beacon)and (TI SensorTag)

The latest technology to come to market (backed by Apple, Google and Nokia) is Bluetooth 4.0 aka Bluetooth LE aka BLE, a low-power version of the classic Bluetooth that “allows one device (the Proximity Monitor) to detect whether another device (the Proximity Reporter) is within a close physical range.” (Source: Wikipedia). Proximity-based applications of BLE include Estimote Beacons, Texas Intrument’s SensorTags and Apple’s iBeacon.

> Here are some presentation slides showing iBeacon in a museums context.


  • (2012)
  • Harrison, C., Xiao, R. and Hudson, S.E. (2012). Acoustic Barcodes: Passive, Durable and Inexpensive Notched Identification Tags. Proceedings of UIST ’12, October 7–10, 2012, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  • Rukzio, E. (2007) Physical Mobile Interactions: Mobile Devices as Pervasive Mediators for Interactions with the Real World. PhD Dissertation. Faculty for Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics. University of Munich.
  • Rukzio, E. (2010). Mobile interaction with the real world. Lecture Slides. Lancaster University. Available