Universal design with NFC

This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating.

NFC has been suggested as an enabling platform for universal design or design for all. Universal design can be summed up as: “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” (Source)

There are perhaps many reasons that NFC is seen as an enabling technology in this area:

  • Touching an object with a mobile device is seen as a simple and intuitive gesture, and may be easier than interfacing through buttons
  • Moving services and functions out into a physical interface may present opportunities that are not possible when navigating hierarchical menus
  • An NFC device has multiple modes of input and feedback and can present information in a perceptible way across many senses
  • An NFC mobile device can contain user-preferences and identification, which can present information or services relevant to the user’s needs

    So: how might NFC be used to create interfaces that are appropriate for the widest range of users?

    One of the most basic NFC interactions is using a physical object as a call or SMS request: touching an object creates a phonecall or an SMS. A common scenario is using a collection of photo frames to make phonecalls instead of accessing names through the phone menu. This can be easily achieved by attaching NFC tags behind photos or inside photo frames. But there is a distinct lack of research and testing in this area, and so far there is no proof that this is easier or more desirable for any group of users.

    In this project we would like you to create applications that use NFC in ways that makes mobile applications easier to use for a wide range of users. These applications should be designed and tested out in collaboration with a range of potential user-groups.


    Access-ability A great document covering transport, ticketing, financial transactions, public access terminals, telecommunications, smart housing, smart media and biometrics, touchscreens, keypads, typefaces, pictograms, icons and symbols, audio input and output, wireless systems, training, instruction books and help facilities. 

    Universal Design – Clarifying the Concept “The principles of universal design are being applied in a growing number of spheres. In Norway, these principles have already been integrated into several acts of legislation and efforts are underway to incorporate them into even more of the statutory framework. To ensure that the principles remain operational, it is necessary to clarify the scope of the concept of universal design, and to specify more clearly the opportunities and ramifications this implies.”

    Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards Section 508 makes sure that federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities. This document covers the basics from software and web to telecommunications and media products.

    Accessibility Guidelines for Public Access Terminals Good information on accessibility for public access terminals like information kiosks, ticket vending machines, information displays, point of sale customer card payment systems and card door entry systems.

    SmartTouch project A pilot project in Oulu is using NFC as a basis for eldercare services: “The City’s elderly care department, its catering service Oulun Ateria and logistics firm Oulun Logistiikka have been engaged in a pilot project involving ordering meals for the elderly based on touch technology.”

    Seeing Eye Phone Mentioned briefly in the ‘Touching the future’ competition winners is the Seeing Eye Phone, an NFC-based service that converts product information into synthesised speech. While this is not strictly a universal design it’s an interesting example of the mobile phone acting as an intermediary between physically located information and other senses.

    Read more about these design briefs.

    Related things:

    1. The universal controller This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. Much research in ubiquitous computing focuses on the idea of a universal controller; a device that can adapt from......
    2. NFC access control This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. RFID and NFC can be used to provide access to places in the same way as traditional keys or......
    3. Nokia releases first mass-market NFC handset Nokia today announced the 6131 NFC phone, the first integrated NFC handset that will (operators willing) be available to the public. Previously NFC had been confined to ageing handsets like the 5140 and 3220......
    4. Touch design briefs The Touch project has been investigating applications and services for RFID and NFC since 2005. Although RFID and NFC have been much hyped, the technologies have been relatively little explored from a design perspective.......
    5. NFC in action A video has surfaced from the recent launch of the Nokia 6131 NFC phone at CES. The demo shows some basic functions of touch-based interactions such as using a ‘smart poster’ to make a......

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One Comment

  1. Amar Sahu
    Posted 13 April 2009 at 15:31 | Permalink

    Hi All,
    I tried to implement Door access control with Nokia 6131 NFC phone. I was able to access the secured door with the phone and it works seamlessly. However I don’t know in which part of the memory this id has been written. Many portals and forums say that the first 6 bytes of block 0 contain the ID of the device. But i am not convinced because both my phones show the same card UID. And hence I feel that the access codes are placed else where in the memory. Any sort of feedback/support will really help.

    Amar Sahu

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  1. By Touch design briefs · Touch on 3 July 2007 at 11:30

    [...] Design for all with NFC [...]

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