R/GA Creative Director Runs Twitter, RFID Experiment
Interactive digital agency R/GA's Richard Ting has been experimenting with a cutting-edge technology on Twitter. The platform, dubbed touchatag, allows his 20-month-old daughter to trigger tweets by swiping tags affixed to books and toys near a reader that resembles a bar code scanner.
The platform relies on a form of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology known as near field communications (NFC), as well as QR bar codes that when read by a camera cell phone can launch a browser and connect with a Web page.
Users set up the Twitter application through the Web-based dashboard. Tweets are preset; a fixed message is tied to a physical object. The platform comes with software, one reader and 10 Mifare Ultralight tags from NXP Semiconductors, a Philips Semiconductors spinoff. Each time a reader identifies the tag it sends the signal to the Web platform and triggers the Tweet. The starter kit is available through Alcatel-Lucent or Amazon.com.
Alcatel-Lucent has an investment group and incubator for emerging technologies inside Bell Laboratories that supports fledgling companies. The venture group supports about six ventures. Touchatag is one of two the company has made public.
Ting, VP and executive creative director of mobile and emerging platforms at R/GA, bought the kit with the thought that the tags could make physical objects smart by connecting information about them to the Internet. "The RFID tag allows the object to become smart," Ting said. "This would let you tie in customer service, ratings and recommendations. It also lets me listen in to the talk across the overall community."
Once tags are connected, information transmits from readers to PC software clients and onto the Internet. There are many applications that marketers can use. For example, consumers in a shoe store buying sneakers with an embedded RFID chip could transmit a message to download branded content to their cell phone or tweet a message on Twitter. It could provide marketers with a forum to gather ratings and recommendations and share information.
For Ting, the touchatag turned into a communication experiment to examine cross-generation communication -- how senior citizens might communicate with younger generations. While the older generations would rely on land-line telephones and physical letters, kids would use Twitter and Facebook.