Have you ever wanted an easy way to share your contact details without having to scrabble around for a pen and paper, or dig your phone out of your pocket? Have you ever wondered why we rely on easily-lost physical keys in today's digital age? Are you a firm believer that the future of technology is wireless?
The NFC Ring combines fashion and technology into one seriously smart wearable. Adorning a finger, the NFC Ring doesn't look out of place in the office, the home, or the even the catwalk, but its attractive exterior belies its true power. A pair of Near Field Communication (NFC) radio tags, compatible with everything from smartphones and tablets to door locks and time and attendance systems, lie just beneath the surface. Using the bundled NFC Ring Control software - or, if you'd prefer, any third-party NFC writing application - you can store your own data on the ring's tags, completing tasks in the wave of a hand that would previously have required far more complex interactions.
So, What Does It Do?
The NFC Ring is designed with two independent NFC tags, one on the upper surface and one on the lower. This is key to its operation: the upper tag should be programmed with information you frequently want to share with the public, while the lower tag holds data you'd rather keep private.
You could program the upper tag with your contact details in VCard format, allowing you to add your information to anyone's smartphone or tablet with nothing more than a fist-bump against the rear of their device. Alternatively, try storing a URL to your website, or a link to your Twitter profile - and watch people's faces light up as their device automatically loads the correct application. Speaking of apps, why not try programming the tag with a shortcut to your favourite application to quickly launch it without having to navigate through the menus of your smartphone?
For the lower tag, why not use it as part of a two-factor authentication system, or to store a key for your chosen cryptographic application? The gesture-based control system of the NFC Ring ensures that your data will be kept safe from prying eyes: the thickness of your finger is too much for the radio waves that activate the NFC Ring's inlaid tags to pass through, meaning that as long as you only share your public data with a closed fist your private data is guaranteed to stay private.
There's fun to be had with the tag's universally unique identifier, too. Affordable off-the-shelf NFC-enabled door locks allow you to open your home or office with a wave of your hand, finally doing away with bulky keys and the risk of forced entry through lock-snapping, picking, or bump-keys. Using Android's Smart Lock system you can also unlock your smartphone or tablet automatically, simply by holding the device in the same hand as your NFC Ring.
The original, the exceptional, NFC Ring launched on Kickstarter in July 2013, and took the site by storm. We were awed by the community's response, which proved that we really had something exciting to offer. Now, two years down the line, we're back with a new and improved design.
Radically Improved Design
The 2016 NFC Ring design does away with the metal of the first-generation model in favour of a high-tech ceramic specifically developed to work in tandem with the inlaid NFC tags. Coupled with a new tag design boasting vertically-stacked tin-plated copper antenna tracks, the usable read distance is more than tripled - meaning the new model works even when your smartphone or tablet is inside a case, and requires much less precision to find the 'sweet spot' for a good, quick read.
Improved NFC Tags
The antennas aren't the only thing that's new about the tags, either. We've spent much of the past few years working to develop an improved, more flexible tag, and the resulting inlays boast 888 bytes of user-accessible storage - a massive increase on the original models. Powered by the industry-leading NXP NTAG216 chip and tuned to 13.56MHz, there's no fear of incompatibility: if your device supports true NFC, it should work just fine with the NFC Ring.
Security and Privacy
We wouldn't be coming to Kickstarter if these were the only improvements, though. The new tags now support locking: either flip a bit or, for added security, set your own passcode and the data on your ring is safe from being overwritten - either accidentally or maliciously. The new tags also include an interaction counter: if you've ever wanted to know how many people you gave your contact details to at an event, we've got you covered.
Finally, the rings themselves have been tweaked. While the overall size within 0.5mm of the slim 2013 model, the 2016 NFC Ring now includes a laser-engraved logo on the inside.
You might be wondering what possible purpose a hidden logo serves, but there's method in our madness: its texturing means that it's now possible to differentiate between the public and private tags by feel alone, simply by gently moving the ring backwards and forwards to feel the logo's presence. It also means we could personalise this engraving to you! (See relevant pledge level)
As before, the NFC Ring is fully waterproof, tested up to a 50 metre depth. If you've been deeper with your NFC Ring on, we'd love to hear more!
If It Ain't Broke
We haven't changed everything, of course. Everything you loved about the original NFC Ring is still present and correct with the 2016 NFC Ring, but turned up to 11. The two tags are still entirely independent, and fully standards-compliant. The ring design is still as slim as we could make it, and designed to be comfortable and unobtrusive.
Our use of genuine NFC technology continues with the 2016 NFC Ring, and that means broad compatibility and no charging required. It doesn't matter how often - or how seldom - you interact with your NFC Ring, it will never need to be charged. The NFC tags operate by harvesting energy from the device with which they are interacting: there's no internal battery to worry about, and with a new wire-bonding method for improved reliability you can expect your 2016 NFC Ring to work for many years to come.
Another thing that hasn't changed is our commitment to open development. The documentation for the NFC Ring is freely available on our GitHub repository, and we actively encourage community members to experiment with their own designs. The first NFC Ring prototypes, created by inventor John McLear what feels like a lifetime ago, were 3D printed, and it's still possible to print your own from the files we provide. Simply pick your own inlay cover and material - we'd suggest a good, clear epoxy - and you're good to go.
During the NFC Ring's development, we made heavy use of Apache Cordova, in particular Don C's NFC plugin, and are pleased to say that we have always contributed our changes back to the community. This extends to our own software: although our NFC Ring Unlock app, for handsets that do not support Android Smart Lock, is closed-source, our NFC Ring Control app is open - and if you're familiar with Apache Cordova, you'll already know how to hack it around to add new functionality.
Real Time, Weekly Q&A/Updates.
If anything, we're hoping to be more open this time around. For the first time, we're going to be offering a real-time stream via Twitch to make sure that all our backers are kept fully informed about the fulfilment process. Around every update posted, backers will be invited to a half-hour Twitch stream where they can find out the latest progress and ask questions to John directly, meaning no waiting for email responses or Kickstarter update posts - although, naturally, we'll be doing those as well.
It's never been tried before, so we hope you'll bear with us through any teething pains - but we're nothing if not pioneers!
It's absolutely fair to wonder where your money is going before plonking down a pledge for an NFC Ring or two. Here's our breakdown...
New & Improved Tags
We pioneered the development of NFC tags in this size and format over two years ago at great expense and our new tags, too, aren't cheap. The NFC inlays look amazing and perform brilliantly, but to get the performance and attractive finish we require means that we pay a premium. Similar tags offering fewer features and lower performance are available for as little as $0.20 each, but our demand for the very best means that we have to pay considerably more.
Even when the moulds and tags are sorted, the spending isn't done. Our manufacturers require minimum order quantities (MOQ) for each ring size too.
Packing & Shipping
Then there's packing and shipping to take into account - often overlooked or imprecisely accounted for by many Kickstarter campaigns. - and this time around we're offering tracked delivery as standard, worldwide. We're partnering with Royal Mail and FedEx to make sure that your NFC Rings get to you as quickly as possible and in perfect condition.
Nothing will be leaving NFC Ring HQ that we don't have a tracking number for, and we'll be sending you the codes as soon as they're generated so you can keep an eye on your package's progress.
It's a been learning process...
We'd love to say that the first NFC Ring Kickstarter campaign went absolutely smoothly. We'd love to say that, but it simply isn't true. While the majority of our backers got their rings and expressed just the right amount of joy, others were let down by missing shipments, delays, and the cancellation of one ring type following extensive testing and design revisions. That's on us, and we apologise unreservedly.
This time around, we're clad in the armour of experience. We've thoroughly tested all the 2016 NFC Ring designs in the real world and also using advanced computer modelling to ensure that they will perform as-expected. Our new materials and manufacturing processes mean that there'll be no repeat of the cancelled-model scenario: if we offer a type of ring in this campaign, you'll get that type of ring. To be 100% confident we can produce these rings we did a test production run of limited sizes and these production rings were sent out to our ring ambassadors, press and media and have been put through their paces thoroughly in the field.
We've also overhauled the way we handle backers' requests. We're the first to admit that, overwhelmed by the wonderful support we received from the community, our small-scale data management system the first time around was sloppy and failed to scale. This time, we're armed with a cutting-edge and well-tested customer relationship management (CRM) system to organise and track backer requests. We won't be losing anything down the cracks with this puppy.
We feel like old hats at the Kickstarter game now, and we're confident that our plan will see us - and you, our beloved backers - through fulfilment smoothly. When the campaign wraps up you'll receive a Kickstarter Backer Survey.
You'll be asked for the type of ring (extra-wide Alpha or slim-and-stylish Regular), the style (Eclipse, Horizon, or perhaps an exciting new style unlocked as part of our planned Stretch Goals), and the ring size in US measurements. Please note that the Alphas wont ship until January 2016 at the earliest.
This latter part is where you really need to pay attention. You will need to know your ring size - or the ring size of the intended recipient, if you're buying as a gift - before filling in the Backer Survey.
We'd recommend visiting a jeweller's and having your finger measured to make sure that you get a ring that fits comfortably - they won't charge, and it takes only a few moments. Remember to state that you want the size in US measurements. You should be given a number, like Size 5, and it's this number we need in the Backer Survey. If you can't make it to a jewellers then you can purchase ring size test gauges online. We can't recommend using any online tools to get your ring size.
When your Backer Survey hits our server, we'll be plugging your data into the shiny new CRM database and will keep you up-to-date on the production of your NFC Ring(s). Once production is complete, we'll send your goodies to the address on your Backer Survey via Royal Mail tracked delivery. For countries where tracked services are not available via Royal Mail, we'll be sending via FedEx tracked instead. We'll then email you your tracking number, allowing you to keep an eye on your rewards as they wing their way towards your finger.
When our original Kickstarter campaign completed, we spent considerable time lobbying various companies to add better support for NFC technologies to their devices and software. We're pleased to say that our campaigning wasn't in vain: our work with the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) directly led to the inclusion of Smart Lock in Android 5.0 and higher, allowing NFC Ring owners to unlock their handsets with no additional software or add-ons.
We're not done yet, though. While certain handsets, in particular those developed by Samsung and using the company's customised version of Android, unlock with no further interaction required, stock Android requires you to swipe the lock screen away manually even when unlocking with the NFC Ring. Having the NFC Ring means there's no need to enter a pattern, PIN, passcode, or fire up the front-facing camera for a bit of face unlock, but it's not the transparent experience we envisioned - so we're planning to continue to hassle Google until its staff are so sick of us they give in and allow no-swipe unlocking for all NFC Ring owners.
World's First Payment Ring
While we already have a ring that can make contactless payments, the supporting technology isn't ready for prime-time use yet - and we're not willing to launch something until we're sure you will have a positive experience with it.
We've also got a few other ideas in mind for future NFC Ring projects, including the possibilities opened up by embedding Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capabilities into the rings - but more about that in a future update!
£67k gets us to the Helios ring.
2013 QA Fail NFC Rings.
To maintain high quality rings we have exceptionally tight QA testing procedures. This means that we have quite a few QA fail rings.
Backers that pledge an additional £5 on top of their reward will get a free 2013 QA Fail NFC Ring.
These rings can have one or more of the below issues which made them fail our QA:
- Scratch or visual blemish.
- Color / Style we decided not to retail (some have rainbows...)
- One side of the ring has a faulty NFC tag.
- Slightly unrefined outer radius
- Slightly unrefined comfort fit
The rings are provided in random sizes and styles.
These NFC rings are provided with no warranty and as such no returns or refunds can be granted.
Risks and challenges
We could find that the factory delays production. There can be various causes for this, all of which were widely documented on our previous campaign and we have been transparent with our fixes and solutions for problems. While in an ideal world we would be producing in two geographical locations this is not practical due to the nature of the project.
Last time the inlay factory shipped us the wrong inlays initially causing a delay of nearly a month. This time we have spec sheets in place with all providers. We also have manufacturing agreements and schedules of work in place with all suppliers.
We could find that the ceramic moulds are damaged/lost/worn out during production. We will have quite a lot of moulds and while we have every assurance that each mould can process 100,000+ pieces we are still relatively new to this manufacturing process. Our manufacturing agreement does cover this scenario and at a certain tipping point (100k volume) the factory has agreed to create multiple molds for each size.
Finally, once the rings get to us, there is a chance that our shipping
goes horribly wrong. To ensure this doesn't happen, absolutely
everything will be shipped tracked and signed. While this takes a
little longer, and costs more, it gives our backers the confidence
they will get what we ship them.
- (21 days)