Wisertag Plant QR and NFC tag for plant details

In my humble opinion, the future is IoT. Things that are connected to the internet and allow you to interact with them remotely, without actually touching them or even being in the same place they are.

We can dream a lot of ideas using the concept of Internet of Things like connected coffee machines and other kitchen apparels. But we can also dream connected small items like a glass that knows it’s content and can react to it, or a pair of shoes that gives you data about your walking habits. 

One day, every item will be connected to the internet. However, for the time being, there are some major barriers that will take some time to overcome:

  • Energy: Any electronic PCB will require energy to function. It is not clear how a small item like a price tag could store and receive this energy, without being a hassle.
  • Price: IoT must be extremely cheap, otherwise already cheap items could not use it, because the IoT chip would cost more than the actual item.
  • Internet connection: How would these items exactly connect to the internet?
  • Development price: Developing an IoT solution is quite expensive at the moment.
  • Size and weight: We need IoT chips and sensors that are easy to integrate and with a really small footprint, otherwise it’d be difficult to get mass adoption.

Connected Things to the rescue

All of these reasons make developing a market fit IoT solution quite expensive for a business, which in turn makes it expensive for the end user. This reason makes IoT unusable for relatively cheap items like a plant or a business card.

This is how the market for Connected Things is born. Connected things are just items that have a tag (simple interface) you can scan with your smartphone. You can get information about it or even interact with it. Our approach to Connected Things is using NFC and QR codes. However, there might be new ways of doing that in the future.

Connected Thing: Wisertag Plants (NFC and QR code that, when scanned with your smartphone, would open details about the plant)

Connected Things don’t tick all the boxes IoT does, but they bring a new dimension to customer engagement. I’d love to buy a plant, scan a tag and quickly get all the information about it, how to take care of it, a watering log and communities around it.

Get in touch with us if you think our ideas are interesting and you want to work with us to build a more engaging world!

As of June 6th, 2019, only iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR have background NFC scanning support. Background NDEF scanning was introduced with iOS 12 for the latest iPhones last year.

For clarification, background scanning means that when a phone gets close to the tag, a notification is displayed with the NDEF action encoded in the tag. It does not require opening or installing any apps.

This year Apple presented iOS 13 at WWDC 2019. iOS 13 brings some interesting NFC updates:

  • Access to the NFC chip UID.
  • Launching a Shortcut with an NFC tag.
  • Better support for most NFC commands, required for some advanced usages.
  • Support for writing NDEF messages. The protocol used for this feature is NFCNDEFTag.
  • Locking an NFC tag already encoded with an NDEF message.

But… what about iPhone 7, 8 and X? These phones have CoreNFC API support, but they don’t have background scanning of NFC tags. An app capable of scanning NFC tags has to be installed and opened to scan NFC tags, and that is slowing down adoption because the experience is not as neat as just getting the phone close to the tag.

There are some rumours that indicate that Apple could potentially launch an update to allow older iPhones to read NFC tags.

For the moment, we will have to keep waiting for that great update that would bring background NFC scanning to iPhone 7, 8 and X. A workaround for the time being (for some applications) is using QR codes, because iOS users are familiarised with them and could scan the QR codes.

Phone scanning a Wisertag NFC card

Based on our experimentation, we have concluded that encouraging clients to install an app is more costly than providing the same functionality with a web application in an app-less manner.

We are therefore big promoters of app-less products that leverage the latest web technologies. These technologies include new web APIs like Service Workers or Progressive Web Applications (PWA).

Case study: loyalty app

A loyalty app is a nice way to engage and retain customers. Recurring revenue is always a great source of income, and it is desirable for all business.

Therefore, there is a great incentive for developing loyalty systems. And the traditional way of implementing them was with loyalty apps in the Apple Store or the Google Play store. But… installing an app is a pain for the user.

However, we found a better way to deliver the same experience to the user without forcing them to install an intrusive usually buggy application requiring a lot of permissions. We created a web application using classic web technologies.

Getting USERS to use the web application

The only missing piece was finding a good way to engage with users. For this matter, we used NFC and QR codes, as the interface is simpler than trying to convince a user to type a web URL on their phone’s browser.

The results are really compelling, as users are more likely to engage with a simple NFC or QR code than they were installing a traditional app.

Phone scanning a Wisertag NFC card
NFC logo and Wisertag logo