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NFC/Bluetooth sticker goes into production

Point of this is a sticky issue

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A sticker packed with Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communications) is an impressive thing, but regular charging and manual operation could make NFC more difficult to use than cash.

That's not going to stop Twinlinx, which has been telling NFC Times that its MyMAX sticker will be shipping next month for those who don't mind putting a 2.5mm thick sticker on the back of their phones, pressing a button every time they want to use it, and paying €20 for the privilege.

The company will be running trials this summer, having manufactured 4000 stickers as a starting run. By the end of the year tens of thousands of the stickers will be rolling off the production line for customers crying out for Bluetooth/NFC hybrids.

Stickers using NFC are a nice idea - proximity payment systems, such as London's Oyster Card or Hong Kong's Octopus, can be replicated as a sticker that one attaches to a bag, key fob, or the back of one's phone, enabling that item to be used as an electronic wallet. That doesn’t add any functionality, it just changes the form factor.

Twinlinx reckons that by packing Bluetooth into the sticker, as well as NFC, it can communicate with the majority of handsets to present menus and information to the user.

The more observant reader will have noticed that while a passive NFC tag can be powered by induced current from the reader, Bluetooth needs more current that that, so this sticker has to pack a battery too. That makes it rather bulkier than the alternatives - 2.5mm according to NFC Times (though the company's specs say 1.8mm) - which is technically impressive, but never going to fly as a product even if that was the only problem.

Having a battery means it must be recharged: there's a solar panel for that, and we can only hope it works though windows, and pockets. Once fully charged the phone can talk to the sticker 300 times - the connection uses the Bluetooth WAP Profile; we've never seen that profile used in anger, but hopefully implementations still follow the standard. Battery life is rated in uses, rather than time, 'cos the user needs to switch the sticker on before the phone can talk to it - yes, this sticker has a switch on it.

Having a Bluetooth stack, a mechanical switch, a battery and a solar panel doesn't make the MyMAX a cheap option - it'll be around €20 a sticker, though the manufacturers hope to halve that and optimistically point out that it's still much cheaper than buying a new phone.

But if you're prepared to pay €20 to have 2.5mm of bulk stuck to the back of your phone, just so that you can see your remaining balance when you've pressed the button, then perhaps the MyMAX is for you - and Twinlinx will be hoping there are a lot of you out there. ®

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