NFC bag tag

Vanguard offers NFC bag tag that texts its location to the owner • NFC World.


Toolkits for programming e-ink displays


Here’s a list of toolkits for programming e-ink displays:


A finger-tip sized, Arduino compatible, Bluetooth LE enabled microcontroller.

Bluetooth LE

Bluetooth LE (BLE) seems to be all the rage right now with many proclaiming it an NFC killer and the future of both, indoor positioning and pervasive service interaction. Key in this context are BLE “beacons” that broadcast information about an object or place. Mobile devices pick up this information and – via signal strength – can estimate how close they are to a beacon. By triangulating closeness to a few beacons, devices can then calculate their position in space. Furthermore closeness information can be used in the context of proxemic interaction [1], where devices display different information and interaction options depending on how close you are to a point of interest.

[1] Check out the Jan-Feb 2011 issue of Interactions Proxemic Interactions: The New Ubicomp?

Some BLE beacons available today:

estimote estimote2




ap ap2


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

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

NFC pen for smartphones and tablets

Sistel vWand

“vWand is a chunky rubber tipped stylus with built in NFC and Bluetooth radios. The marker pen sized device acts as a bridge, allowing users to conduct an NFC operation using its built-in reader and then relaying data via Bluetooth to the tablet or smartphone”