Hijacking NFC Tags

I have been thinking about tags for as a background task for a while, and one of my directions has been to look at the “hijacking” of tags. Here, I am not talking of replacing some tags by other tags (for instance pushing toward a competitor of a smart poster’s rightfful owner), as thie defnitely doesn’t look like something legit.

Here, the idea is about developing an application that would run on NFC-enabled phone, and that would catch all NFC tag traffic, proposing whatever action the tag was meant to propose, but also proposing alternatives. Here are a few potential uses for it:

  • Propose alternative opinions. For instance, let’s imagine that a Google tag on a restaurant window redirects you straight to Zagat. This application may offer you some alternatives, like Michelin or Yelp.
  • Do something else with the tag. For instance, a tag installed by a city on a monument to provide tourist information could be used in an interaactive game. When the user scans the tag, something happens (for instance, some additional information is disclosed).

There may be a business model behind such an application, but we must remember that the title of this post include the term “hijack”. Using somebody else’s infrastructure that is left in the open may be acceptable/legal/moral, but if we go too far, I am sure that some countermeasures can be put in place. However, this sounds like an interesting non-commercial project. Here is how I see it:

  • Community project. The open community is required in order to create the alternative content. Without content, this mombile application simply is another indirection when using tags, which is not good.
  • Linked to other community projects. An obvious link is Wikipedia, which could provide alternative content for all kinds of monuments, public places, etc. But I am sure that there are other projects to draw from. The good thing about this is that it reduces the production of content to linking tags to new URL’s, which can be much faster than writing the content.
  • An experiment with tags. What people do with tags today is very boring, and we are expecting more ideas to come. Such a project could be tthe base of a wider experiment based on tags.

I am not good at starting/managing developer communities, and I will soon have little time to do this. I have thought about a few things around this, that I would be happy to share with people interested to work on this, but my meager Web development skills have stopped me from starting a real implementation. This thing just sounds like a very nice group project on Mobile Web, with a mobile client, a Web site and database, a sprinkle of NFC for the hype, and much more later. If you’re interested, please drop me a line, as I would like to keep a (distant) eye on such a project.

One Comment

  • Eric,

    I’m glad to see that you have a little time to post to your blog again.

    Anyway, to the matter at hand, “hijacking”. On Android, as you already know, hijacking is easy since any application can register itself for the NFC intent. I think the problem exists with the end-user experience when they tap on a tag, and they see these options show up. The ordinary, average, ignorant user will be fearful to click the wrong choice and have something “blow up”.

    However, for an educated group of consumers, I think you’re on the verge of creating a new “network”. For instance, at the museum, there could be a tag at an exhibit. By tapping my device on the tag, and selecting the “hijaques” app (sorry, I couldn’t resist) I could see comments by folks who saw and enjoyed the exhibit, and recommend another exhibit based upon similar interest.

    You may be able to get Google’s interest because all the infrastructure of Google Places (NFC tags at physical locations on the map) and Google+ (the ability to “like” or “+1″ a thing and comments) seems to get you almost there.

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