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MIT's building-block dev kit goes NFC

Wireless connectivity for idiots

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MIT's App Inventor, the drag 'n' drop development kit spun out from the Googleplex, will be demonstrating its NFC credentials next week, with a new tool to be released soon afterwards.

The demonstration was spotted by NFC Times, and will take place tomorrow at MIT's Enterprise Forum event, as part of a panel on the Internet of Things. The beta version has apparently been available to MIT students for a while as they'll be showing some NFC applications they've developed, and how easily NFC can be added to a project.

App Inventor is a web-based tool which was developed by MIT's own Hal Abelson, while he was on sabbatical at the Chocolate Factory. The project was hived off as part of Google's refocusing, and ended up back at MIT, where it has been attracting limited attention as a novelty and teaching tool.

The concept is similar to other drag-and-drop programming interfaces, bringing programming to those who can't type. The user drags around blocks representing different functionality, and the dev kit then spits out an Android application which can be downloaded and installed on a handset.

Adding an NFC block isn't technically very challenging – the Android APIs for reading and writing to tags are are public and well-tested – but integrating them with App Inventor should allow very quick prototyping of ideas and perhaps encourage a few more people to experiment to see what NFC can do, something the NFC industry needs to find that elusive killer app. ®

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