Using smart tags from Thinfilm, the Korean Red Cross has made the work of delivering aid to those in need more efficient and more transparent.
Near-field communications (NFC) specialist Thin Film Electronics (Thinfilm) has outlined the role played by its technology in a project that it claims is the “largest ever” deployment of NFC tags by a humanitarian organization.
Thinfilm’s SpeedTap tags were adopted by the Korean Red Cross for its Heemang Poongcha program, which translates as ‘Windmill of Hope’. Launched in 2012, this sees the Korean Red Cross deliver food, clothing and medicines to low-income and socio-economically vulnerable people, including children living without their parents, senior citizens and foreign migrant workers throughout South Korea.
The SpeedTap technology, meanwhile, combines NFC connectivity with printed electronics to enable everyday objects labelled with these tags to communicate with smartphones.
The Korean Red Cross relies on volunteers to make its Windmill of Hope deliveries and, in the past, beneficiaries were required to sign a receipt, as proof they’d received the goods. These paper receipts were then sent back to Red Cross offices, where the details were manually entered by staff into a software program for auditing and tracking. The process was time-consuming and error-prone.
Today, delivery receipts carry a SpeedTap tag and, once a delivery is made, volunteers scan the tag using their smartphone or an NFC reader. The scan instantly confirms the exchange of goods (or in some cases, services) and sends the relevant information to a Korean Red Cross database located in the cloud, for real-time record-keeping, reporting and analysis.
In other words, smart tags make it simpler for volunteers to confirm deliveries and this approach doesn’t require office staff to enter transactions into a database. The net result is increased transparency when it comes to the transfer of goods between volunteers and beneficiaries.
Since May 2017, around 20,000 SpeedTag tags have been used by the Korean Red Cross and the organization is continuing with its use of the technology.
“Improving efficiency and increasing transparency are critical to the continued success of the Windmill of Hope program,” said Baek Dong-Chan, head of program development and operations team at the Korean Red Cross. “Thinfilm’s solution made this possible for us and it was easy for volunteers to use.”
Oslo-based Thinfilm’s NFC products for mobile marketing and and smart packaging applications are more commonly used in consumer-focused applications: for example, the company recently worked on a project with Colorado-based craft beer company Oskar Blues Brewery, distributing 200,000 coasters featuring SpeedTap tags to bars and restaurants throughout the US. When tapped by a patron with their smartphone, the coasters generated a behind-the-scenes video to be shown on that device, promoting the company’s Dale’s Pale Ale product.
We are one step closer to an affordable reboot of supersonic flight. Japan Airlines (JAL) has invested $ 10 million in the Denver-based aerospace company, Boom Supersonic, that’s planning to resurrect the method of travel. In exchange for their funding, JAL will be able to pre-order 20 of the new aircraft. The airline’s president, Yoshiharu Ueki, said in a press release from December 5: “Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic flight with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasizing flight safety.”
It’s been 14 years since British Airways and Air France grounded their Concorde fleets, and commercial air travel hasn’t hit supersonic speeds since. Fourteen of these planes ferried first-class passengers from New York to London at speeds of 1,353 mph (2177.44 kph) — twice as fast as the speed of sound — making the jaunt across the pond in only 3.5 hours. That’s about half the time it takes a normal passenger plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
But the supersonic travel industry was hampered by prohibitive costs. Not only did it need four times as much fuel per passenger as a Boeing 747 airbus, but the average cost of a round-trip ticket was $ 12,000. Passenger numbers also dropped dramatically after the fiery crash of Air France Flight 4590 in Paris killed everyone on board.
A “Baby” Concorde
“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic in the press release. The companies have been collaborating to improve the plane’s design for passengers on board in addition to technical aspects.
JAL is only one of Boom’s financial backers. In 2016, British billionaire and founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson agreed to buy the first 10 of these jets. He also promised that his spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, would assist with flight test support.
With Branson’s and now JAL’s support, Boom Supersonic is aiming to build a faster, cheaper version of the Concorde. The company’s FAQ says it aims to have its supersonic airliner in service by 2023, designed so it “can operate profitably while charging the same fares as today’s business class.” These potential cuts to the cost of supersonic flight might make the industry more accessible to less wealthy passengers.
“We are talking about the first supersonic jet people can afford to fly,” Scholl told Wired UK earlier this year. “This isn’t science fiction. We are actually doing this. You will be able to fly New York to London in three-and-a-half hours for $ 5,000 (£3,548) return,” he said.
The company’s supersonic prototype, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, is scheduled to fly in 2018. Nicknamed “Baby Boom,” it’s one-third the size of what the commercial option will look like. It will fly at speeds of 1,300 mph (2092.15 kph) — exceeding two times the speed of a jumbo jet. The full-sized one will reach 1,700 mph (2735.89 kph).
JAL could use their 20 new jets, seating up to 55 passengers each, to plan flights between Tokyo and North America. While a standard flight from San Francisco to Tokyo takes 11 hours, a supersonic jet might make the trip in half the time.