Articles By David Bliss

Founder, Technical Director


Using NFC with Arduino: Odopod library available on Github

In our work related to Connected Objects and the Internet of Things, we've built a few different devices capable of reading Near Field Communication (NFC) tags.

NFC is a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that allows two devices to exchange messages while in extremely close proximity.

We're developing new service experiences based on the ability to add inexpensive NFC tags to physical objects and recognize them when placed on or next to connected objects that are embedded with NFC readers.

For this, we've used a few different NFC readers that are compatible with Arduino micro-controllers.

The readers we've used include:
1. The Adafruit PN532 Controller Shield
2. The Adafruit PN532 Controller Breakout Board
3. The Seeed Studio PN532 NFC Shield

Since all three boards use the PN532 NFC chip, they respond to the same command set and can read all common NFC tag formats. Depending on the application, each of these readers has it's advantage. For example, the Adafruit breakout board runs at 3.3v, making it ideal for use with the Arduino FIO.

The libraries available for each reader are largely similar, but not completely interchangeable. Additionally, the libraries don't easily support all the features we need, especially in regards encoding and decoding NDEF messages.

To simplify the process of switching between readers and tag formats, we created a single library that supports these three boards, I2C and SPI communication, and a variety of NDEF message formats written to Mifare Classic and Ultralight tags.

We've posted the library on Github in hopes that others will find it useful and help add features to it. If you are an Arduino developer working with NFC, have a look and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Four Internet of Things trends.

The Internet of Things is comprised of networked objects with sensors and actuators. These objects observe their environment and share the data they collect with each other, Internet servers and people. This data is analyzed and the results are used to make decisions and affect change. Change may come from a connected object making adjustments in the environment, or it may come after the collected information is analyzed further by a person.

Odopod has several clients involved in the Internet of Things space and we've worked with them in a variety of ways including brand and marketing work, product and service development and connected object prototyping.

We recently lead a workshop with one of these clients, exploring ways that their household products could benefit from being connected to the Internet. Several of their products are already connected to each other and the Internet, we helped them uncover new opportunities to push these products beyond pure utility and to find ways to do and say something new.

To get things started we reviewed four themes that come up most often in Odopod's work around the Internet of Things.

1. The quantified self.

At this year’s Planningness Conference, Guthrie (Director of Brand and Strategy at Odopod) and I lead a session on Connected Personal Objects, where we explored how the Internet of Things can drive a virtuous cycle of learning and change based on the collection and analysis of data.

Tracking performance as a guide for change is not a new idea. Companies use data to improve business processes as well as product marketing. Athletes and medical professionals collect biometric data to optimize performance and patient treatment. What's more, an increasing number of non-professionals are collecting information about themselves, looking for patterns in order to positively impact their lives. In all cases, the mechanisms employed range from pen and paper to high-tech devices coupled with data mining.

There is no question that the Internet of Things makes it easier and easier for us to learn from our actions. Many products provide customers with direct access to the information from which they can draw their own conclusions. Increasingly, these products will be bundled with services to perform more detailed analysis and deliver simple, actionable recommendations.

For example, most services that track athletic performance such as running collect data and report extensive information about current and past runs. Future services will take things further. Based on deeper analysis, these services will be able to set optimal diet and workout plans as well as provide real-time coaching based on your individual training goals and performance history.

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Working with Kinect for Windows and Flash

Over the past twelve months, Odopod has worked with a few Kinect prototypes using open source drivers in conjunction with Processing and Flash.

The most robust examples have leveraged the full body (aka skeleton) tracking provided by the OpenNI and Prime Sense NITE libraries. Unfortunately, this level of tracking requires people to pose like they're about to get a pat down from airport security. Even if you just want to track a single hand, it requires a socially awkward wave to the camera.

In February, Microsoft released the Windows version of the Kinect hardware as well as its Kinect for Windows SDK and license. The hardware itself is only nominally different, supporting experiences that are closer than possible with the XBOX hardware. The software, however enables full skeleton tracking without the need to strike any particular pose. In fact the recognition is instantaneous.

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A Multi-Device Web Strategy

By now, I expect you know that the number of people using smart-phones, tablets and other devices to access the web is increasing and is expected to one day surpass the number of people using laptop and desktop computers to get online.

To address this shift away from desktop dominance, a contemporary web strategy must:

  1. provide universal access for each piece of content
  2. optimize layouts for a variety of screen sizes
  3. support touch gestures in addition to mouse and keyboard interactions
  4. deliver optimized content for devices with limited resources
  5. fully optimize key experiences for the specific contexts of use

Contemporary web development techniques make it possible to deliver on these points with a single front-end code base that adjusts to the capabilities of devices rather than building multiple sites different categories of devices (e.g. Mobile and Desktop). A single site is more cost effective to build and maintain and is also more flexible, able to accommodate new devices that don't fall cleanly into existing categories.

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Data mining, it's not just for information scientists

There is an incredible amount of potential stored within social networks and the Internet of Things.

On projects at Odopod, we've scored site contributors based on their social activities. We've provided tools for our clients to hold conversations in Twitter and bring those conversations into their sites. We've generated countless shares and likes. And we've only begun to scratch the surface.

With the continued growth of data available to us via APIs and increasingly sophisticated open source tools, we're looking forward to more and more opportunities to skim a little data and shape it into something both fun and useful.

I recently presented some related research during a brown bag lunch discussion. Here are some highlights.

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Using Kinect within Flash Applications

On Wednesday, Microsoft released additional information about their upcoming SDK for the Kinect. However, if you don't want to wait for that release, there are some great alternatives available already.

To better understand the potential Kinect holds for retail and other installation work at Odopod, I've been exploring different ways to integrate Kinect into Adobe Air applications. We're using Air because it allows us to quickly build prototypes and explore this exciting new technology.

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Mobile Strategies: Untangling Device Contexts and Use Context

Most conversations about mobile strategies include the following two perspectives: limited resources of devices require new technical approaches, and mobile use cases are different and demand unique content and application features.

As we’ve settled into our new multi-device lifestyles, a new perspective has entered into these conversations: finding different content at the same place on different devices is a problem and flies in the face of web accessibility and common sense.

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Building Our Approach to Video features a great deal of content which includes some amazing videos. Two great examples of these videos can be found on the Aquatimer family page. Galapagos is an eight and a half minute video highlighting IWC's longstanding relationship with the Charles Darwin Foundation and includes some really incredible cinematography. Don't miss the footage of iguanas foraging underwater. A little further down on the Aquatimer page is a short animation demonstrating the engineering behind the depth gauge within the Aquatimer Deep Two. It is an example of how IWC uses video to educate customers about their watches.

Galapagos video on the Aquatimer page

As the second installment of our series on building, we're looking more closely at how this video is delivered to both desktop and mobile browsers.

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Building and the publishing system powering it are a new cornerstone for IWCs digital strategy. Given the goal that this system remain relevant for a minimum of 10 years (and what can happen on the internet in 10 years) technology choices were particularly important.

How do you future-proof a development like this?

For us, the logical place to start is...

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Web Applications Evolved

Google’s new Web Store offers themes, extensions and apps for Google’s web browser, Chrome.

Themes and extensions are not new to Chrome; the store simply brings them together with apps to provide improved discoverability.

Outwardly, the applications might not seem all that different, but for those using the Chrome browser, Google has added a layer of functionality that app developers can take advantage of.

More after the jump »

Odopod is now Nurun

We're still in San Francisco, still under the same leadership, still doing great work (here are some case studies). But now we're a lot larger. We've joined a host of Nurun offices around the globe, all part of Publicis Worldwide.

Our focus remains on helping clients succeed in a connected world with products and services that transform the consumer experience.

We continue to work with forward-thinking, longstanding clients including Tesla, Google, Sony and Audemars Piguet. More recently, we've established new relationships with Dolby, the San Francisco 49ers, GoPro, and Blu Homes.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you too.

Tim, Dave, & JT

The best way to reach us

For new business, contact Allison McCarthy

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For more about Nurun, visit