NFC Transforming Any Space into a New Marketplace in Japan

Aquabit Spirals, a Tokyo-based startup company, is exclusively using Smartrac NFC tags to take offline products online, without the need for apps or online searching.


Aquabit Spirals is a Tokyo-based digital marketing company that has expanded its activities to include the creation of new, high-quality user experiences leveraging NFC technology. The company has invented an innovative approach to providing offline to online consumer experiences that looks set to revolutionize consumer adoption of the Internet of Things.

Launched in 2009, Aquabit Spirals is exclusively using Smartrac NFC tags such as BullsEye and Circus in many of its self-adhesive SmartPlate™ products. These small form factor tags can be deployed pretty much anywhere, transforming public spaces into marketplaces.

Information Anytime, Anywhere

Use cases already deployed in Japan include, for example, NFC tags attached to the hanging straps in commuter trains, which allow travelers to access special offers from retailers, travel information and much more – all at the tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone.

One Japanese supermarket chain is using SmartPlates at the point of sale of fresh foods. When tapped with a smartphone, the food price label will show the shopper recipes for using that specific ingredient. Furthermore, SmartPlate can generate recommended content based on that user’s behavioral data, accumulated on a cloud server.


Even in the home, a fridge magnet from Pizza Hut isn’t simply an advertising gimmick – by tapping the NFC tag with your smartphone, you can get daily offers through fun features like a lucky draw and order a pizza to be delivered to your door. No special app is required, since the tag simply provides a hyperlink to the brand’s web-based content. This scheme simplifies the pizza delivery transaction in this case, and it can be used more widely to enhance user engagement with many brands at home.

One other huge developing market for these products is the travel industry. SmartPlate placed in accommodation such as hotels or Airbnb rooms can offer services such as ordering a taxi or making reservations for restaurants or local activities, all without the need to search online for suitable services. Multilingual options mean that travelers in a foreign country can still access facility information or local services without the need to speak the local language, and without even installing an app. This potential size of this market is huge, as there are several millions of hotel rooms in the world, and the total addressable market for accommodation is expanding as the global economy grows and becomes ever more integrated.

Creating a Hyperlink of Things®

By managing linked information with unique codes via the cloud, SmartPlate delivers a variety of information dynamically according to the user's needs or the server's parameters. The process is described as search-less, app-less and battery-less, since the passive NFC tag requires no power source, and the user does not need to search for the information or download an app to access the relevant website. This results in a means of information delivery that is so simple that even a child can use it. Aquabit Spirals defines this as the Hyperlink of Things®, the association of physical objects with online information.


Companies using SmartPlate to run marketing campaigns have access to a full suite of online analytics and campaign management tools, via a specialized app that allows them to manage campaign information integrally via the Cloud.



A Growing Market with Unlimited Applications


As of October 2018, Aquabit Spirals had shipped 125,000 SmartPlates, which have been used by over 440,000 unique users for more than 1.4 million online accesses.

The exclusive partnership with Smartrac began with initial discussions in 2013 and saw the company’s NFC tags such as BullsEye and Circus being incorporated into SmartPlate from 2014. And the outlook is very positive: NFC tag shipments will very likely increase further in 2019.

There are endless opportunities to make everyday products and transactions smart, using SmartPlate to take offline things online, and to create customer experiences anywhere.

This innovative approach to connecting people to the Internet of Things looks set to accelerate the digitization of everyday objects and interactions, bypassing the need for search engines and apps, and link users directly with the information or services they need.

For more information about Smartrac’s range of NFC tags and inlays, please click here.