Grasping for the Golden (NFC) Ring

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Kickstarter, the Web site that pioneered crowd-funding for creative projects, has seen more than 4.5 million people pledge more than $700 million since its launch in 2009. A British firm, McLear Ltd., has developed a ring embedded with two Near Field Communication (NFC) transponders and some associated software, and has raised £65,000 ($99,600) on its Kickstarter page—more than double its original goal.

The NFC Ring contains two transponders, one for public information and one for private data. So, for example, you could unlock your mobile telephone using the private transponder, by simply holding the side of the ring with the private NFC tag in it next to the phone. The private tag could also be used to, say, open the door of your home (provided it has an NFC-enabled lock). 

The company, founded by John McLear and Matt Mullenweg, has also developed an application allowing ring owners to use the NFC Ring to trigger specific actions. For example, by holding the ring near an NFC reader in a mobile phone, you could program the phone's Web browser to visit a particular Web site. The software is open-source, so developers can utilize it to create their own apps.

The NFC Ring is one of the first real RFID projects funded on Kickstarter. Why did McLear choose crowd-funding over conventional venture capital? "Kickstarter, to me, is more about building communities than it is raising cash," he explains. "It's also about validating products. Both of these things are key. Without them, the ring is nothing, so Kickstarter was the right choice."

Those who contribute will receive a ring or inlay, but not shares in the company or project. McLear says the money will be used to manufacture and sell the first 15,000 NFC Rings, including some 2,000 that will go to Kickstarter contributors. Some of the money will be used to pay off debts incurred during the ring's research and development.

"About 90 percent of the funds will go to production and distribution," McLear states. "We'll probably still have some debt at the end of the year—but it's no big deal, because our goal here is to start a bit of a revolution." 

Last update: Jul 22, 2016

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