Services at a touch with new mobile technologies

September 29, 2006

Brussels, 28 Sep 2006

A new EUREKA project aims to bring a range of services to within touching distance. The SmartTouch project, which is led by the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), will develop new, easy to use applications for mobile devices based on Near Field Communication (NFC) and proximity-based data transfer technologies. NFC technology enables data to be transferred between a mobile device and a service system simply by touching the mobile device to an NFC tag. Proximity based transfer technologies allow data to be transferred from a mobile device to another device such as a computer simply by bring the two objects close together.

The system is being piloted by the Finnish city of Oulu for a number of its services, including a catering service for the elderly. The city has equipped users of the service with mobile phones with NFC readers. To order a meal, users simply touch the desired menu item with their phones, and the order is automatically transmitted to the service provider. Oulu city officials hope the new technology will improve the system and cut down on manual work.

The technology can also be used to pay for public transport tickets, another area where Oulu is piloting the system. In this case, the user touches their phone to a reader which deducts the relevant amount. The user can monitor the use of their card by reviewing logged uses on the phone display. In fact the smart card in the NFC device can act as any limited value charge card, including city cards, library cards, bus tickets, cinema tickets and tickets for events. Delivering tickets in this way is more cost effective than traditional methods.

The project has a budget of over €30 million and is due to be completed in 2008.

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