Tag Reader Review

The social activism space isn’t well populated for the Windows Mobile platform—there are IPhone applications for sure, and probably some good Android applications, but the best I could find for WinMo is Tag Reader.  While not specifically designed for activism, it could be a really powerful technology, reducing the critical time between being made aware of a media element, and when someone can visit the website for more information.

In persuasion, the smaller the gap between prompt and action, the better.  Both for space and time.  The Tag makes a static media element, like a poster, print advertisement, flyer, etc. instantly web-enabled.  No typing, no need to remember anything, just use the camera in a smartphone to read the tag, which functions as a hyperlink.  Additionally, as the Tag is a link, the content that is pointed to can be changed in real time, even though the tag itself is static.

The Tag also can be integrated into the graphics of a print media element, giving it a degree of stealth.  Obviously, it’s not as stealthy as the forged French stamps the Resistance used to communicate, but by integrating into the graphics, the Tag is minimally intrusive, and less noticeable by ‘out group’ members, if that is an aim of the campaign.  Alternately, the Tag can be configured to be distinctive from any other part of the media, and therefore is easy to find and use.

A ‘stealth’ tag can function as in in-group/out-group device.  Those looking for the tag (similar to the hidden WiFi broadcast mentioned in Little Brother) would be able to see it, while others would not.  This could be a useful social networking tool, aside from the security applications of a hidden tag. 

This strength is also a weakness.  The tag database is hosted remotely by Microsoft, which could be blocked or potentially even intercepted in a man-in-the-middle attack.  Additionally, the Tag requires a live internet connection, which may not work in all areas, and is susceptible to the aforementioned security issues.

In my test of the Tag Reader, it works fast on my Samsung Omnia, and is as easy as pointing the crosshairs at the Tag, and bang, it goes right to the URL I set up for it.  No buttons to push, no monkeying around.  Looking at the options, there is the somewhat worrying option of allowing or disallowing location information to be sent to Microsoft and the tag originator.  There is the possibility for abuse, either by Microsoft, the originating party, or by an intermediary (such as a government, or an interceptor of the wireless data signals).  This feature can be disabled to ensure privacy.


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