This blog series showcases the creative minds behind some of the most intriguing applications for Near Field Communication (NFC).
A British citizen, born in Munich, with a BA degree from Sussex University and an MSc from Heriot-Watt University, Julian’s a system architect and product manager for consumer electronics products at touchables, a company associated with the German incubator Veridian Labs.
NXP: Tell us how you got involved with NFC.
Julian: It was very early on, but in a different light. Before joining Vodafone, I was the Panasonic marketing board rep at the NFC Forum. That was in 2006, and the typical handset had no touchscreen, no apps, and no social networks, and all our use cases reflected that!
I always loved the flexibility of NFC technology, and wanted to improve the NFC experience on today’s smartphones. In 2013, at the first Google & Allianz Hackathon in Munich, I had an idea for bringing social, trackable, and Internet of Things (IoT) use cases to NFC. I worked on the concept with a friend, and we won first prize. (One of the jurors said, “I thought NFC was just for payments!”). As part of our prize, Allianz flew us in style to the Google I/O event in San Francisco.
NXP: What does your application do, and how does it use NFC?
Julian: We develop NFC stickers for your favorite things. You can do all kinds of things with them: stick them on your plants and get reminders to water them, use them to tell your spouse where you parked the car, or remind your housemates when the washing machine has finished and the laundry needs to be hung up.
Touchables are an easy, fun first step for anyone interested in creating a smart home. By sticking these buttons onto your favorite things, it’s more fun for you, your friends, and your family to do everyday chores.
NXP: Why did you choose NFC?
Julian: Because it’s a solid, mature technology, scaled to market and thus very affordable. It’s robust and secure and, best of all, doesn’t need a battery.
NXP: What about security?
Julian: All our data is end-to-end encrypted. No data is handled in the clear, and any data on the tag is kept confidential. Yet our security technology is transparent to the user.
NXP: Where do you see this going?
Julian: NFC needs to move from the techie market to the mass-consumer market. That means applications need to be intuitive, with zero configuration. Existing NFC apps make users go through as many as 15 steps to make them work. That’s great for the technology fan, but a nightmare for the mass market. Our application reduces it to just one tap.
NFC also needs to become a familiar item in daily life, so users see it as a natural way of interacting, and begin to embrace important applications like tap-to-pay services. Touchables provide this kind of daily interaction with NFC.
NXP: Tell us a bit about how you think. Would you rather live without your phone or your computer?
Julian: Is there a difference? Soon our phones will be able to connect to large public screens and give us a desktop experience while on the move.
NXP: What do you think has been the most important technological invention in human history?
Julian: Since I was a first-hand witness to its impact, it has to be the evolution the Arpanet to the Internet. Prior to that, probably the printing press.
NXP: If you weren’t in your current job, what would you do instead?
Julian: Be a scuba master on an island in the Indian Ocean.
NXP: Sounds nice! Thanks for taking time to talk to us.
Julian: My pleasure.
NXP’s NFC Everywhere TechZone