MULTITAG is research project between the Computing Department of Lancaster University and DOCOMO Euro-Labs which is funded by the latter. The goal of the project is to develop new methods and applications for mobile interactions with multi-tagged objects.
This project was launched in January 2008 and has a planned overall duration of four years.




Mobile interaction with things, places and people based on NFC tags or visual markers is regarded as a promising application area in mobile commerce. However, most currently implemented commercial applications are based on simple interaction paradigms, which associate one single object with exactly one tag to provide one single link to exactly one service at a time. As an extension to this rather limited commercial settings, multi-tag interactions and applications are driven by the idea of augmenting objects through multiple tags that provide various links to different services. The concept of multi-tag interaction was initially exploited within the PERCI project which was funded by DoCoMo Euro-Labs and promises to hold great potential for new mobile services that provide an added value to the customer.

The aim of the herein MULTITAG project is to further analyze multi-tag application and interactions, to define guidelines for the development of such systems, as well as to establish tool support and a solid service engineering basis for the future development of such services.

Tag Interaction Paradigm

In the past, a considerable interest in industry and academia in using mobile devices for interactions with people, places and things could be observed. In this context, the term 'physical mobile interaction' has been established to describe new interaction styles in which the user interacts with objects in the real world using a mobile device. This way, physical mobile interactions simplifies the discovery and use of mobile services, enables new kinds of object, person or location-based applications and removes several limitations of mobile devices.

Previous Applications for Tag Interaction

Typical application areas for these interactions are active posters and advertising, tourist and museum guides, electronic keys, ticketing, and mobile payment. The commercial success of DoCoMo's Felica payment service in Japan and the general uptake of QR codes in Asia is already showing the potential of these interaction paradigms. Current products and research prototype focus almost exclusively on the augmentation of one object with one tag (e.g. NFC tag or visual marker) to provide one link to one service. In this basic setup, the user selects the tag, the corresponding service is requested via the provided link and all the following interactions are done on the mobile phone itself. The significant disadvantage of this approach is that the potential of the object as a part of the overall application is neglected; for service interaction, the user has to use again their mobile device with possibly limited input and output capabilities.

Advantages of MULTITAG

In many practical settings the idea of multi-tag interaction seems to speak for itself: compared to the conservative single-tag application, the user interface consists of the mobile device and possibly multiple objects augmented through many tags. Tags and objects can help to overcome device limitations by offering natural ways to select service parameters, to decide between alternative services and to actually invoke them. A complementary commercial benefit is in the use of physical object for the explicit and visible deployment of services in the environment. Explicit physical objects could be used as advertisement spaces and attract customers through their design and appealing nature of use.