VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland used NFC (Near Field Communication) based technology that would allow visually impaired and blind people to identify everyday items through a speech-based item identification system.
NFC tags could be added to food items so a user could touch the code on the packaging with their NFC-enabled mobile phone to download text, audio or web page product information which can be played back on their handset.
The tags could include links to information such as the origins of the product, ecological aspects and possible allergy risks.
In an example from the research, data stored on a NFC tag on a medicine bottle provided spoken dosage instructions from pharmacy staff, to aid a visually impaired or blind person.
NFC take-up growing
Currently, the number of mobile phones with NFC technology is limited but VTT said more are becoming available.
Marja Harjumaa, research scientist at VTT, said the food packaging industry could use the technology to display detailed information in a small area.
“[They] would be able to serve their customers better by attaching additional information to the packages.
“As an example, when people are baking, they could add product information straight to their blog or Facebook page just by touching a tag.
“NFC tag in a package could also serve as an access point for digital services: it could direct [the] user to a web portal or automatically download a new mobile application.
“We have received very much positive interest towards the solution from food packaging manufacturers, also, and we believe they are very interested,” she said.
VTT led The HearMeFeelMe research project and believes there are “many possibilities to use NFC technology in services which improve people’s everyday lives.”
Harjumaa said the tags could contain anything from normal text, audio or a link to a web page.
“NFC tags could contain information written by the manufacturer, such as ingredient information, expiration date or use instructions, but also, it is possible to develop mobile applications, which enable users to add their own information.
“In our studies users were able to add personalised voice information to any items. The most tagged items were food items.”
Harjumaa added: “People would also be more motivated to find out information about the product if this information [were] easily available.
“As an example, it is already possible that your mobile phone can show you a video about how to use a new product by just touching a tag with your mobile phone,” she said.