Korean Red Cross labels aid deliveries with smart tags from Thinfilm
Korean Red Cross labels aid deliveries with smart tags from Thinfilm
Windmill of Hope volunteers at the Red Cross Community Centre in the Chongno district of Seoul. (Credit: IFRC)

Korean Red Cross labels aid deliveries with smart tags from Thinfilm

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.

Korean Red Cross labels smart tags Thinfilm
Thinfilm’s SmartTap tags (Credit: Thinfilm)

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Volunteers 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.

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20,000 tags and counting

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.

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Jessica Twentyman is a journalist with a 20-year track record as both a writer and editor on national newspapers and IT trade titles. Her work focuses on how smart companies use technology to achieve real business results. She is a contributor to the Financial Times, The Economist and Computer Weekly, and Consulting Editor on Diginomica.com and I-CIO.com.

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