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back to article Mobe hackathon contest spits out Wi-Fi-by-bonk app wonder

The weekend's NFC hackathon turned out 17 working applications, 16 of which could just about have been done with barcodes, and one which will see two strangers going into business together. The event was sponsored by mobile PR outfit* Isobar** and Telefonica (under its O2 brand), and took place at Shoreditch Studios – proudly …

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Please!

Can we stop the "pay by bonk" references?

First time was funny for us blightyites. Then it stops being so. Especially for the bonk deprived ones.

TIA

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Facepalm

Impossible with QR...?

Surely an Android app with a QR scanning library could grab a "username" and password from a QR code too, then configure the WiFi adapter in the same way? Even if the usernames / passwords are generated per-person, the QR could be displayed on a screen.

I'm not trying to knock the team's achievement, as I think NFC is a useful technology and they've shown plenty of ingenuity, but describing something as "impossible" is usually asking to be proven wrong :-)

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Re: Impossible with QR...?

Agreed it is far from impossible but the NFC solution does appear to have a couple of things going for it. Where this is proposed to be used (i,e. cafes) the owner may wish to change thier access password semi-regularly and so a printed version wouldn't be very convenient. A screen is a good idea but is likely to be more costly both in the short term and long term.

Although an outlay would be required for the new connect-by-bonk router it provides convenience, no changes to infrastructure and no additional operational costs.

Now personally.... if I had the £10,000 I would be looking at how I can set up partnerships with major brands (i.e. Costa) to include marketing within the App. Connect-by-bonk and get a 5% off code for thier carrot cake.

I do like a Costa carrot cake.

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Re: Impossible with QR...?

Barcodes on screens can be over-the-shouldered. Plus NFC stations can detect and lmiit itself to just one device: the phones that comes within a couple cm of it (which is 9 times out of 10 the desired target). Furthermore, I think it would be easier to set up a mesh of NFC contact points instead of a bunch of video screens or a bunch of QR-coded slips or cards that end up in the trash or strewn on the floor.

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Re: Impossible with QR...?

Even better, with a setup like this, the usernames and passwords can be generated on the fly, useable only for that customer for that session and discarded once it leaves contact for, say, two or three hours (a pretty sure sign he's gone for the day/night). This way, the only people who can use your system are the customers currently inside, and it blocks the "come in one, then just hang outside in future" approach, since each customer's session is only good exactly once.

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Anonymous Coward

Because obviously...

... you can't generate a 2D barcode on the fly and put it up where the phone can see it, like some display or even a flimsy bit of paper or something. It is equally just too hard to put it up on the inside of an outside wall so it can't easily be over-the-shouldered by some bod with a telelens or something. Yes, I can see where you're coming from.

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Re: Because obviously...

No, because it would be expensive to put a screen on every table, plus they're hard to embed (not like an NFC point which doesn't have to be visible. Visible stuff is more likely to break. Plus it's more difficult to do the one-time-account business with screens. And paper? Ahem, litter problem and paper costs? Thermal paper isn't exactly cheap.

And no, because I'm not worried about the plod outside but rather the one already inside who's sneaking directly behind me.

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Anonymous Coward

Thermal paper isn't exactly expensive, either.

A quick bit of googling and some light tapping on the old pocket calculator shows it costs about the same as discount printer/copier paper per area. And since you use 'naturally' a lot less of it -- not an entire sheet of a4 but just enough to put the message on -- a roll might well last longer.

And if you're running, say, a cafe or other like venue, you'd have a ready supply for receipts anyway, and a solid waste removal infrastructure that one can safely expect to be able to deal with the added load. A paper napkin is actually more expensive and more litter than a POS printer flimsy. If you'd like to argue that shoving another bit of "unseen" electronics into the shop, well, why bother? Might as well shove a screen into the shop to tout the wares. Unseen is unloved. Shops exist to market and sell.

As to breakage, well, there's at least one company working on induction-recharged water-proof e-ink interactive menu cards, designed expressly to be distributed to patrons. Might as well integrate with that. Probably easier than with the NFC capability that most handsets still inexplicably so glaringly lack these days.

Really quite curious how NFC/RFID is so visibly struggling to find things it can really do better than the existing solutions. Its best adoption uptake has been, without fail, due to government or other overly large party fiat and pressure. It is not, in other words, a technology that sells itself.

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Boffin

Re: Because obviously...

"you can't generate a 2D barcode on the fly" - Eh, yes you can.

And putting it where the phone can see it? Print it on the receipt of the coffee they've ordered.

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Medical achievements on facebork?

I can see it now....

Fred has started his antibiotics for NSU!

Gina has completed her course of antifungals!

Dave wants to share his Preparation H with you!

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I am highly suspicious of the fact that Proxama are based in Norwich as is the student from UEA. All sounds a bit to co-incidental to me, but maybe that is just me being a cynic and disappointed at the lack of innovation in using NFC.

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Can't be done with QR or hard?

No, ALL those can be done by QR code.

The Pill application can even be done easily with EAN code on pills and QR code on prescription to set up the application. Cheap and simple to print a QR code(s) on the prescription.

For the WiFi application "reading over the shoulder" is irrelevant. It's just a simple way to input the password, freely available, but only such inside the restaurant or whatever.

NFC is still a complex solution looking for a problem.

In most cases you only need a unique ID. So in shopping and no need to keep receipts for returns and track back to source the EAN is maker and Product. You just add a second serial number bar code. The unique ID is thus EAN + Serial number, allowing a serial number per product.

Then there is complete traceability and if you used a Store "points" card no need to keep receipts for returns. How do I know? I implemented this already on Printer consumables for a large Multinational. Each item got a 2nd "1 D" (not even a QR code!) code and scanned in on receipt from Wholesale/Maker. Then complete traceability. The customer would scan a Printer/fax/copier and the app would tell him what to get from local store. (s)He would scan it to get it out (next stage would be a Vending Machine type dispenser on site). Old cartridge scanned to recycle bin. This can all be automated.

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Re: Can't be done with QR or hard?

"For the WiFi application "reading over the shoulder" is irrelevant. It's just a simple way to input the password, freely available, but only such inside the restaurant or whatever."

But they DON'T WANT the password to be freely available. What they want is that only paying customers can use the system, not the ones hanging outside or the ones just sitting in the waiting room. To do that, you need dynamically-generated passwords that keep changing, but passing along the dynamic password without it getting passed to undesirables is tricky. With NFC, you can secure the system. NFC is BIdirectional, unlike barcodes, so you can ensure a given password is issued only once, because there is confirmation that the code was received. That also means you know when to cancel that password (when contact under that password stops for some time: long enough to be reasonably sure the person has left) By setting the contact point at the bar or dining table, you practically ensure physical presence at the desired locations (SOMEONE has to actually place the phone at the contact point). And an embedded device (one hidden from sight) isn't as prone to the usual abuses of being in plain sight (getting knocked around and potentially broken the way a screen would).

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FAIL

bonk

So nothing really new then ! all that time , effort and brain power. Just goes to show that NFC will probably not take off - just don't see the point of it.

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Ale

Is this new?

NFC task launcher, available from the android market, already lets you program a tag which sets your wifi params and connects you to the network. They even suggest you can have a tag in your home so that visitors just need to tap it to connect to your home network.

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I read here once

I don't remember the article (and can't be bothered to look it up) someone had proposed a bluetooth synch-by-bonk. This I think would be a good use of NFC; it could close some of the gaps in bluetooth security, and make it much easier to use.

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Re: I read here once

Nokia have already commercialised a line of Bluetooth-enabled audio devices (a headset and a desktop speaker) that utilise NFC for pairing - and I think that the appropriate data structures have either been documented at the NFC Forum, or are in the process of being so.

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Isobar

From the meta tags on their home page:

"Full service digital marketing agency, Online marketing agency, Modern communications agency, Interactive marketing agency network, Digital creative agency, Global digital agency network, Isobar, Isobar Communications, Isobar Worldwide, Isobar Global, Digital advertising, Digital agency, Digital agencies, Digital marketing, Online marketing, Online advertising, Email marketing, Wireless marketing, Interactive Television, SMS Marketing, Mobile marketing, Direct Marketing"

not sure how they can complain about being labelled as a PR company. Methinks the lady doth (digitally) protest too much...

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Happy

Pillit

Thanks for the right up. I'm on Team Pillit and we were really happy with our Kellogs donated prize of a years supply of cereal, now we just need a cow.

Pillit solves 2 problems with quite a complex solution that was hard to get across in the 3 minute presentation time. The NHS wastes £300m a year on untaken medication and over 50% of 18-39 year olds never finish a course of treatment. Also, many people need to take multiple types of drugs which can be confusing to identify.

Pillit helped to solve these problems by:

a) The standard reminder function to tell people when to take their meds and

b) Using NFC tags on each bottle to identify the correct drug and reinforce how many to take.

The complex side of things used positive reinforcement. It's widely accepted that rewarding people is more effective than punishing them. If Pillit was part of a pharmacy loyalty app for instance, it would be easy to reward people with (relatively low cost) loyalty points the closer to the target time they took their medication. This would result in fewer wasted medications which waste money and have other consequences.

In respect to your NFC comments, I personally think it bridges the gap from the age of QR codes to now. It doesn't require you to start a specific app and the weekend showed that their are so many applications it could be used in.

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I agree that yes, some of the applications could well be done by QR Codes, but the whole point of the event was to encourage the use of NFC and promote its adoption.

There are many advantages of using NFC over QR Codes including:

- The user experience for one, they can touch their phone on the tag without even opening the application.

- QRCodes are sometimes difficult for low end cameras to read (even high end cameras in low light).

- It is possible to pass more information via an NFC tag than a QR code.

- QR Codes don't support device to device communications.

QR codes in my opinion have done a great job at providing a level of the experience which NFC can deliver. Now that NFC is starting to become more common place in handsets I think we will see more and more examples applications which support both, then eventually applications which are 100% NFC as the number of supported devices makes this viable.

I for one am excited to see the opportunities which arise from NFC, we've been talking about it for the last few years, now its time to put these great ideas into action.

Comments welcome.... :)

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Congrats to the Blue Butterfly team

It's always nice to see new applications for NFC that do not revolve around contactless payments. Out team won the last hackathon hosted by Isobar in San Francisco, if you'd like to learn more about NFC gaming, check out www.tapthatgame.com, rest assured, there is no way you could replace a barcode with our app.

Cheers,

Andrew

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