A Beacon for Short-Range Authentication and Payments

Building beacon technology into a paper-like form factor opens up new applications for information sharing and payments, say two companies that have recently introduced a Bluetooth-based product called PaperBeacon.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 29, 2015

Teijin, a Japanese manufacturer of advanced materials, has partnered with TagCast, a maker of Bluetooth beacons, to create a new product called PaperBeacon, which the companies are promoting as an application for digital check-ins, document sharing or electronic payments.

PaperBeacon uses a flat, flexible antenna made by Cellcross, a Japanese company that was spun out from the University of Tokyo in 2002. The antenna technology, which Japanese glass manufacturer AGC Asahi Glass uses to track RFID-tagged documents, is constructed in a manner that strictly controls the radio frequency field it generates in order to support applications wherein only wireless devices laid atop the antenna are read. Rather than incorporating an ultrahigh-frequency (UFH) RFID reader, PaperBeacon contains a TagCast Bluetooth radio. The antenna sheet is 1.5 millimeter (0.06 inch) thick (the Bluetooth module embedded in it is roughly the size of a matchbook, and is located in a corner of the PaperBeacon, which is approximately the size of a placemat). The PaperBeacon has a one-year expected battery life.

A desk with an embedded PaperBeacon
The reach of the TagCast beacon signal is designed to extend just above the antenna's surface. That way, only the Bluetooth-enabled device that is placed directly onto the PaperBeacon collects its identification number, which triggers a PaperBeacon application running on the device to start some designated function.

In a video promotion, the companies offer up two use cases. In one scenario, a roomful of schoolchildren place their electronic tablets atop their desks, each of which has an embedded PaperBeacon. The Bluetooth module in the PaperBeacon transmits its unique identifier, which is collected by the Bluetooth transceiver embedded in the student's tablet. A PaperBeacon app running on the tablet then uploads this number to a TagCast cloud-based server in order to authenticate the device. Once the tablet is authenticated, two things happen: The student's attendance is automatically logged into the teacher's electronic attendance-tracking application, and the day's learning materials are automatically downloaded onto that child's tablet. (This was just a demonstration, however. In an actual deployment, the attendance-tracking and electronic textbook application software would be developed by the end user or a reseller.)

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