Virtualizing the Physical World: tikitag Aims to Create “Internet of Things”

By September 15, 2008

One of the more intriguing ideas in the current tech scene is the attempt to “virtualize” the physical world. How this will translate into mainstream usage is really still conceptual, but we’re beginning to see more and more attempts to bridge the gaps between “the two worlds.” One such effort is tikitags. Tikitags are stick-on labels that link to a URL, and are read with readers using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology.  In layperson's terms: place the information on the sticker, put the sticker on the thing, read it with a reader (your cell phone), and voila!

Proposed uses are tagging keys with finder information in case they get lost, tags on art-gallery paintings linking to Wikipedia, inventory control, or putting them on a business card with links to your corporate and social media sites.  This could come in really handy as a translation dictionary: imagine being able to put your phone up to an object in a foreign country and find out what it's called.

An Alcatel-Lucent Venture based in Antwerp, Belgium, tikitags has the corporate clout behind it to succeed. Also favorable is that the API is being released as open source, and that it works with PCs and Apple OSX (Linux coming soon?).

Key to tikitags’ success will be ease of synchronization between devices and tags. It seems like potentially fantastic product with myriad real-world applications, but it needs to be easy to use to hope for any kind of mass adoption. According to tikitag, analysts at Strategy Analytics predict that there will be 250 million NFC enabled phones in 2012, so the infrastructure will be in place (arguably, it already is) for mass adoption of technologies like tikitags.

Tikitags debuted earlier this month at the Demo Fall 08 conference in San Diego, where they got a good reception. Currently in alpha, the beta launch is planned for October 1st; on that date, packages containing a tikitag reader and 10 tags will go on sale for $49.95. Enterprises will be able to afford that price, but hopefully it will come down for people like us to use this "wikiterra."

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