Vitag launches NFC-powered “sticky notes” for visual instructions • TechCrunch

Whereas QR codes emerged as a kind of technological poster during the pandemic, collecting a new life in all of restaurant menu to contactless payments, there remains a certain inelegance to the matrix barcode system.

Usability remains a sticking point, both in terms of the effort required to create content and align it with a QR code, and also from the perspective of the end user who needs to open their device app photo to scan the QR code – something that might not even work in low light situations. Add to that the aesthetics (who’s ever seen an attractive QR code?), and there’s a strong case for an alternative that brings the spirit of the QR code to a more user-friendly format.

It is a problem that Vitag launches an assault, with an NFC product designed for video instructions. Or, “video sticky notes,” as the company calls them.

Founded in Dallas in March of this year, Vitag officially announces its private beta today at TC Disrupt, where the company was selected as one of TechCrunch’s Battlefield 200 startup cohorts. We met the co-founders Sean Jackson (CEO) and CTO Daniel Reiling for insight into exactly what he’s looking to achieve.

Vitag co-founders: Daniel Reiling (CTO) and Sean Jackson (CEO). Picture credits: TechCrunch

Videos at your fingertips

Vitag’s product consists of two main “things”: a mobile app that allows users to record instructional videos or upload existing material from their device, and an NFC-enabled physical tag that they can program the video onto. . All the end user then has to do is tap their phone on the tag, and the video appears on their screen, showing an Airbnb guest how to use the air conditioning system or where recycling goes.

Vitag in action. Picture credits: Vitag

Of course, all of this is easy enough to achieve with QR codes – there are plenty of services online to generate QR codes that someone can then attach to a YouTube video they’ve created. What Vitag does, however, is provide the tools to create the video, manage the tags, and host the video itself – it’s built its own hosting service on top of Google Cloud, with the content viewable only. for those with access to a unique URL, which is activated when users touch their phone to a tag.

“We created our own service where you can capture video on your phone, it goes to our servers and it’s hosted there,” Reiling said.

It might seem more intuitive to come from using an existing white-label video hosting service from a company like Vimeo, but the founders explained their reasoning for creating their own hosting service: It’s all about scalability , controllability and customization. While Vimeo might be ideal for a business to host their own videos, when dealing with potentially hundreds or thousands of Vitag customers who need their own individual accounts to create and store hundreds or thousands of videos, it requires full control of the experience from creation to hosting. The entire back-end and front-end are brought together in one platform.

“Our goal is to take the complexity out of the instruction sharing process,” Jackson said. “We think people are tired of tinkering with different technologies to accomplish a task – from QR code generators to different hosting platforms, desktop publishing tools, printers, adhesives – and everything else necessary.”

However, it’s not just about video. A customer can configure their tag to link to a static text page, photo, URL or whatever they want.

The company offers $2 pre-printed labels specific to a certain type of business, such as restaurants or retail, while designers can also order custom labels with their own text and choice of background. -different planes. It should also be noted that companies can choose to print QR codes on NFC tags for those who prefer to use QR codes.

Vitag: Personalization interface. Picture credits: TechCrunch

Additionally, Vitag also supports NFC tags from third-party vendors, with a built-in feature allowing users to format tags to work with Vitag. The company said it’s also planning additional tools in the future, including a desktop app with additional functionality for small businesses and enterprises.

NFC Surge

NFC, or Near Field Communication as it’s more formally called, isn’t a new technology, but it’s taken its time to properly hit the mainstream consciousness, where it still pretty much resides in the realm of payments. But its recent growth has been helped somewhat by the recent adoption of big tech companies such as Apple, which started fully adopting NFC with iOS 13 in 2019 – instead of only allowing iPhone apps to read NFC tags. , Apple began allowing applications to write directly to blank tags and interact through native protocols. The company also recently launched a new “tap to pay” feature that allows iPhones to accept contactless payments via NFC.

Elsewhere, NFC is also being used to replace business cards, allowing people to exchange information simply by tapping on phones.

So while QR codes have had a major resurgence in recent years and aren’t expected to go away anytime soon, NFC is also on an upward trajectory, and that’s where Vitag wants to make its mark.

“We believe consumers are becoming more comfortable with ‘tap to’ events, with payments being the most widely used today,” Jackson said. “And as more people become exposed to digital business cards, market adoption of ‘touch for’ will only increase.”

For now, Vitag is looking to serve the short-term rental market in the United States, which Jackson identified as a particularly powerful use case for video instructions. But plans are underway to target all sorts of verticals, from restaurants and retail stores to gyms.

“As we shared our vision of what this technology could do, we found use case after use case of almost everyone we came across,” Jackson explained. “People staying in rentals wanted them instead of outdated guest books. Restaurant owners wanted them as a replacement for QR codes. Gym owners wanted them to show people how to exercise Retail store owners wanted to use them for in-store product demonstrations.

According to Jackson, Vitag has so far raised about $145,000 from angel investors in Texas, including WP Engine co-founder Jason Cohen, though he hopes to raise seed money in the near future.

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