Startup in the spotlight: TicTag

Smartphones contain all required data about their owners to safeguard who the person is, where the person is and often also what this person wants at a particular moment. This information can open doors – literally. Pieter Heersink, founder of TicTag: ‘For instance, think about the doors of car-sharing vehicles, the homes of older people visited by home care staff, or shared bicycles that you can unlock with your telephone.’ Based in the JIM centre in Utrecht, the TicTag team of currently six people is working on a technology that can open more doors, as well as much more than doors.

From offline to mobile phone

To explain how it works, Heersink first goes back in time and then fast-forwards to future perspectives: ‘About five years ago, we started an app for retailers. We wanted customers to be capable of collecting all loyalty points from different stores in one place, which is their mobile phone. The challenge here was to get these credits from the offline world onto your actual phone.’

The telephone as proof of identity

Although this transfer is already possible with QR codes and NFC chips, those methods apparently involve a number of drawbacks. Heersink explains: ‘They can be copied, they are expensive and they also cannot be used with iPhones. That’s why we came up with another technology, which turns the smartphone into the “digital me” of the telephone owner. To give a few examples, a scan of a customer’s passport, bank details and all kinds of other personal data are often stored in the phone already. As a result, customers can identify themselves with their phone.’ He immediately addresses horror scenarios of stolen identities: ‘If your telephone is stolen, the thief cannot do anything with it because the phone first needs to be unlocked with a fingerprint or face recognition. What’s more, various technologies can be stacked, which ensures even better security.’

From stamp to sticker

While Heersink and his partners were positive about the idea, they were still unhappy with the practical implementation: ‘Initially, we worked with stamps that the retailer pressed against the customer’s phone, after which the loyalty points were credited to the mobile phone. However, we soon saw an opportunity to make this stamp slimmer in the shape of a sticker. You can put these stickers on all kinds of products and objects. In this way, we give control to the customer rather than the supplier. Customers can show who they are and what they want by presenting something to their phone, after which the sticker and the phone communicate with each other to carry out an activity. The sticker is our Version 2.0 with a huge range of applications.’

Countless applications

Since a person’s identity and location are known, all kinds of applications become possible. Car-sharing vehicles can be opened without identity cards, as can the locks of shared bicycles. Tags can be placed in public transport as well. Transport company Arriva is one of the parties which is highly interested in TicTag. For instance, by scanning tags in the bus with your phone, it’s possible to check whether people are actually riding on the bus before they can rate the driver or report a broken seat. This idea brought TicTag into the final round of a challenge organised by Arriva.

More efficient home care in Utrecht with TicTag?

Home care staff can use their smartphone to open client’s doors in a safe and secure manner, after which time registration and action registration are automatically carried out as well. Heersink: ‘We are already doing so for a home care organisation in Deventer, but we would really like to implement this feature in Utrecht as well and roll it out nationally if possible. To this end, however, we need partners. We make the technology, but we’re always looking for IT companies and other organisations which are familiar with the various sectors and which can estimate what benefits TicTag could bring there.’ Heersink still sees many opportunities in the retail sector, where it all started, and he is conducting talks here as well. The customer journey in a store can be optimised: ‘Customers can make shopping lists with their smartphone, scan all the products which bear a TicTag for themselves, get information on the product and its availability, and finally pay for it all on their own in a secure manner, with a little tap of their phone against a tag at the checkout. That little tap is simple and gives the user a sense of control: I take the initiative to pay, to open a door, and so on.’

Pilot projects starting in March 2019

‘We have spent a long time looking for partners and funding. This kind of new technology has to prove itself first. In addition, we use a really novel concept called printed electronics, which means printing on a kind of foil. As it’s still in its infancy, it was a bit of a quest to find companies who can produce it. We found good partners in Germany, proved the technology and applied for patents. This process costs time and money.’ In order to make further progress, TicTag was recently able to acquire further investment and is talking to other possible investors. Heersink explains: ‘This way, we can really complete our product. It is going to be an exciting year, the team is doubling in size and we will be launch our Version 2.0 as from March.’

StartUP ScaleUP MeetUP

Join us on January 30th for the CES edition and find out what a big international event can do for startups (and what not). With CoVince, MiniBrew, TicTag and techie in residence Frank Everaardt (Tweakers) on stage. Hear about their experiences and the newest developments at CES. ​

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