Near-Field Communication (NFC) is generally associated with contactless payment methods such as the mobile wallet. In practice, NFC's uses include connecting a smartphone to a car and other devices. Now Norway-based one2TOUCH is offering silicone keyboards that connect to smartphones and tablets simply by laying the mobile device on top - no pairing required.
The keyboards feature "Touch & Type" functionality and have a pad that the device can rest on. In the case of one smartphone keyboard, a pad in the center where the phone rests separates left- and right-hand keys. A second model requires the phone to rest along the top edge of the keyboard in order to connect. Once sitting on the keyboard, the phone connects to the keyboard via NFC and is ready to receive input. The silicone keyboard is waterproof, and folds to fit into a bag or pocket.
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The design works universally among most smartphones as there is no phone-specific cradle. However it does require a driver to be installed on the mobile device. The company says these will be available for download from the Android Market or the App Store. The Android driver will be available first with a driver for Apple devices released when Apple releases NFC capable devices.
"Many people are using smartphones and tablets in ways that require more than fingertip scrolling, pointing and pressing on the touchscreen. Whether you're typing notes, social networking, or emailing, both mobile devices and keyboard greatly extend flexibility when it comes to creating content with full screen view," said Øyvind Holtedahl, CEO for one2TOUCH.
NFC is used for connectivity between the smartphone or device and the keyboard so that once contact is made, the keyboard is connected. The technology doesn't require pairing, which is necessary for Bluetooth and other personal area network (PAN) standards. While many PAN devices operate up to a certain distance from each other, the one2TOUCH keyboard does require contact.
Currently one2TOUCH has a distribution partner in Japan and is also looking for partners in the U.S. and European markets. Pricing details are not yet available.
The video below from one2TOUCH shows the keyboard in action.