It’s been a heck of a week for IOTOPE last week. After years of being only attending Devoxx, the biggest European community driven Java conference, I finally got the chance to work behind the scene of this great conference. About four months ago Stephan Janssen asked me if we could do something with NFC Rock & Roll wristband at Devoxx. Of course I was happy to help. A real target, like say a conference, could bring a bit of focus to the development of IOTOPE. And it did, although it brought the development of IOTOPE:node for Java to an halt, it did got the android version and the server kick-started.
So what did we do the last four months. We started out searching for the right wristbands and tag technology. It was harder then expected because the cost needed to be reasonable. Getting the tags and the wristbands from different suppliers would be to expensive because then they still needed to be assembled by yet another firm. Eventually we found a firm that had the complete package. Then the type of tag needed to be decided. Would we go for the new type of ICODE tags or go the more classic MIFARE tags. The MIFARE classic tags came out as the winner because they were cheap and it’s technology that is supported by all NFC readers. If we chose ICODE, we could forget the Arduino voting system because they have a fairly old chip in them that doesn’t support the new tags.
Although it was well know that the MIFARE classic has a weak crypto engine I had read the spec carefully and found something in the spec I could use to destroy a sector so it’s not usable anymore. By doing this I could redeem the virtual coupons on the tag and the ID is in a non writable space anyway, so we where fairly safe on what the tag was concerned. The worst thing that could happen was that someone hacked and wrote something else in the tag. Reusing the free space in the tag is even encourage for people wanting to play with their tag.
Now that the tags where chosen we could concentrate on the terminal software. Stephan had good contacts at Google and he could lend a few Nexus phones and tablets (20 Nexus 7’s, 10 Galaxy Nexus), so an Android app was an obvious choice. With only three months left the app was build from the ground up to facilitate all the use cases for the conference needed:
- Attendee got a QR code > Scan QA > Verify validity > Write tag
- Partners can scan tag > Get information about the attendee
- Redeem bag, party and meal vouchers
These use-cases could easily be packed into one application and had the added benefit that we could easily switch the phone or tablet to a different mode: A phone that in the morning was a ticket scanner could be a meal scanner at lunchtime.
We had the luxury that we had Nexus devices so they were guaranteed that they had the latest version of the Android OS and we didn’t need to make any compromise of what we could use. We used the build-in database to cache the data and used a sync provider to keep all the devices up to date, even in the turbulent wifi network. All devices and it’s OS proved to be rock solid and survived the all day hammering of the NFC stack. The only real scary moment I had was that Google announced the new Android SDK at Devoxx and immediately started to push Jelly Bean 4.2 to our devices. Luckily there where no problems but I had preferred to had tested it first.
Looking back this was a successful NFC Devoxx and we learned a lot. I’m certain we will continue next year with new and improved software and hardware. I want to especially thank Stephan to give me the opportunity to help with Devoxx this year and “Alexis Moussine-Pouchkine” from Google to give use all the support. See you all next year @ Devoxx.
Only 12 days left. We’ve been working hard for more than 3 months doing research and implementing our first IOTOPE app for a big “still unnamed” event.
Next week I can disclose some more information about the project, but I already want to share this picture of our device view on the Google Play market. It’s kind of funny to see that many devices, but the problem is that you can’t distinguish between the devices of the same make and model. Next time we’ll register them one by one and give them a logical name at the time of registration.
Not to worry though, this is just a small inconvenience and I’m looking forward to the event. It will be a heavy week though and I can’t wait to tell you more, but that will be for next week.
Do you have tons of old Touchatag (or even tikitag) tags lying around? Are you worried that they are now useless now that the Touchatag community site is closed. Don’t despair though. You already can use them with the standalone IOTOPE:node.
But not only that, we have an agreement with the owners of the now closed community site that the URL that is burned on the tag now redirects to the IOTOPE:server.
What does this mean? If you touch the old tags with an NFC enabled phone you will be redirected to the IOTOPE server. Once the server is fully operational you can do some nifty things. We will support the classic URL redirect and social business cards but an Android app is also in the works. The app in combination with the server opens up a lot of possibilities. We already have a few ideas, but if you have an idea, why leave your toughs on the Google groups.
But we will have to disappoint on the timeline though. All our resources are now going into our first deployment in the field. They will come free after November 19th though and the Android app for the event will be reused for IOTOPE community. So by the end of the year will should have something up and running.
So for now, keep you tags nearby and why not install IOTOPE:node and play with them on your computer.
Worried that it’s a bit quite on the IOTOPE front. We’ll don’t be. We hard at work evolving the platform. What’s more exciting is that we will have our first “in the field” roll-out of the technology in November. I can’t say a lot about this particular case yet, but I can tell you a bit about how it will impact the platform.
Two important building blocks are still missing for this particular use case:
- NXP Mifare Classic read/write support
- An Android application
- The server
As the server here is of minor importance we’re concentrating on the Android and Mifare Classic support. Both are developed in parallel. But the nice thing about the Android platform is that you can reuse our Java code we’ve written for IOTOPE:node. So all the Mifare Classic code we’re written for the Android app will also enhance IOTOPE:node.
Because the platform needs to mature, we’re also hardening the code by writing unit test for all the the components. By using the TDD (Test Driven Development) approach it makes it also a lot easier to develop the NFC interactions. You don’t need the actual hardware and NFC tag anymore to add or enhance a feature.
As you see, a lot of work, but we’re excited to see our first real deployment in a few months.
The second maintenance release is available for download. The following issues are fixed
– New Application ( to execute external applications )
– More stable poll thread
– Should work out of the box for Mac now
Special thanks for Bert for reporting testing and contributing Mac OS-X fixes.
Download the latest release here:
It’s become public, the Touchatag service is closing September 30th, a sad day for the NFC landscape. But loyal Touchatag users probably had noticed that the service hasn’t evolved for over two years. That’s why I started IOTOPE in the first place, to start a new beginning.
An a few months ago we had our first 0.1 release. The is the desktop (serverless version) of IOTOPE. And, yes, you’ll notice the 0. version and it’s certainly not production ready. But it’s ready for the enthusiast to start and play with it. Too give valuable feedback and start building at a bright new NFC future for consumers.
Next week we’ll see a new release that will have a more stable polling thread and we’ll cleanup our repository at github so you can build the complete IOTOPE node distribution yourself.
So if you are a Touchatag user looking for a new home, why not join IOTOPE. Go over to our Google Group and be the first to start the discussion about what you would like to see. And make sure you follow us on twitter (@IOTOPE) and Google+.
Oh, BTW. One more nice thing: IOTOPE will be open source under the relex Apache License.
The first bugfix release is available for download. The following things are fixed
– Fixed Windows batch when IO:Node was installed in a path with spaces
– Fixed NPE when the localhost:4242/ui was used without trailing slash
– Fixed Unstable reader when a none-NFC reader was available
– Added Untested Unix/Mac bash script
Special thanks for Barbara for reporting the NPE and reader problem, Bart for supplying the new windows batch file.