It’s more than just payments
A new NFC technology coming out of Finland will enable individuals, by touching their phone to a tag, to let Facebook friends know where they are.
Called Hot in the City, or HIC for short, it is the world’s first phone-operated NFC technology solution for social media, says its inventor, Tuomo Tuikka, senior research scientist for the non-profit VTT Technical Research Center in Oulu, Finland.
The name came from the original use of this system, says Tuikka. “We thought that restaurants would be the first obvious place for you to see where your friends are, then you know that is the best place to go. The name stuck, and we never really tried to rename the service even though we realized the connection with Billy Idol’s song,” he adds.
The idea came about in early 2008, says Tuikka. His team started experimenting to connect NFC phones to Facebook. In April 2009 the effort took first place honors in the research track of NFC Forum’s Global Competition. He is now seeking to patent the new technology and find investors.
Tuikka believes his social media solution for NFC phones may be the third cornerstone for NFC. “If you follow the media on NFC, everybody talks about payments and ticketing, which are considered the killer apps for NFC,” he says. “The third one was social media solutions.”
Hot in the City is composed of four components: an application for use in NFC-enabled mobile phones, a back-end service being operated by VTT’s server in Finland, a Facebook application front-end available from the social media network or the Hot in the City site (hic.vtt.fi), and a Web portal.
While Facebook is currently the only social site offering Hot in the City connectivity, Tuikka thinks it could work just as well at other social networking sites. “Our service could be interoperable with any open social media platform,” he says.
The lack of optimized peer to peer communication can “make connection a bit troublesome,” says Tuikka. Next generation NFC phones should improve on this, particularly when NFC Forum standards are developed. “Usability is the first issue to tackle during the pilots this autumn. The more feedback and platform experience we get the better the system will be.”
Since Hot in the City is run from a server in Oulu, Finland, users also may experience longer than normal response times, says Tuikka. And, because it’s still relatively new, he estimates that users number just in the hundreds.
“Hot in the City lets you create tags for events and locations,” says Tuikka. The tags cost around 1 Euro (about $1.50) a piece.
For example, you create a tag at your workplace using the application on your phone, touch your NFC phone to it and your friends know you’re at work. When you leave, you touch your phone to the tag again and essentially you log out of your workplace. You get to a restaurant and create another tag giving the name of the restaurant, touch your phone to that newly-created tag, and your friends are notified you’re at the restaurant.
This same information is also sent to your Facebook page so someone on a computer at the Facebook site can also view your location.
Tuikka points out that Hot in the City is different from connecting with a friend virtually via Facebook. By bringing two NFC phones together, individuals can automatically add friends to their Facebook page. Individuals can probably even poke friends, if they want. “Here with two phones coming together, you’re actually meeting someone in person,” he says.