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New technologies bring services within touching distance

New mobile business initiative led by VTT
New technologies bring services within touching distance

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is managing a new international co-operative project SmartTouch targeted at finding new, versatile applications for mobile devices. The technologies employed in the project will bring different services literally within reach of touch - in the local catering service for the elderly of the City of Oulu, in Finland, for example, the simple act of touching a catering menu item with a mobile phone will automatically place the order and bring the selected meal directly to the home of the service user. The same technology can also be applied to paying for one's shopping or purchasing public transport tickets.

The goal of the ITEA/Eureka project managed by VTT is to develop versatile and easy-to-use mobile services based on NFC (Near Field Communication) technology.

NFC enables the acquisition and transmission of data between the mobile device and the service system, e.g., by touching an NFC tag carrying service related information, or by touching a specific reader device connected to related infrastructure on a bus or at a shop checkout.

Another application is proximity-based data transfer, which refers to initiating data transfer by bringing a smart device (such as a mobile phone) close to another device (such as a computer, TV set, DVD player, or another mobile phone). For example, this functionality will allow images to be transmitted from a mobile phone to a printer or to a computer for storing or further processing.

In Finland, the new mobile technologies are piloted in the City of Oulu, where the local catering service for the elderly will be piloting a catering order system using mobile phones equipped with NFC readers. A simple touch of the desired menu item will automatically transmit the order to the service provider. The objective is to support elderly people living at home by monitoring and automatic registration of meal orders, which is expected to cut down on manual work. This pilot has been implemented by ToP Tunniste together with VTT. By implementing efficient service systems, this project aims to enable the administrative units of the City of Oulu to help it's citizens manage their daily activities more easily. Practical applications will include services for elderly people, catering, logistics, access control and health services.

The same technology can also be applied to paying for one's shopping and for purchasing public transport tickets. The smart card used in the NFC device can be any limited-value charge card, such as a city card, a library card, a bus card, a cinema ticket, or a sports event ticket. The consumer will be able to manage the card and monitor its use on the mobile phone, by reviewing the card use log on the phone display, for example. The technology enables the service provider to deliver the service card to the customer via the mobile network much more cost-efficiently compared with traditional methods.

Other ongoing pilot projects include public transport ticketing systems in the cities of Oulu, Turku and Tampere, and access control systems of public premises.

According to Mr Gerhard Romen, the chairman of the NFC forum marketing committee, SmartTouch applications provide good examples of the use of the NFC technology in making everyday life easier. These examples also make us more aware of NFC-related business opportunities and of the roles of the different parties involved.

NFC technology will be part of our everyday lives in the near future. The R&D activities of VTT in the field of mobile services cover the entire product chain from concepting of mobile services to piloting and implementing products.

Sirpa Posti | alfa
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