Tokyo subway straps beam ads to your smartphone

Strappy is an NFC technology embedded in subway straps that can direct your smartphone to advertiser URLs. Just in case you weren't already bombarded with enough ads.

Subways in Tokyo are crowded enough, and they're plastered with ads on the walls and ads hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes, entire carriages are wrapped in ads outside. Straps are mini-billboards too, but now they're interactive.

In an experiment that's been going on for a few weeks, printing company Shunkosha has been deploying its strap covers on parts of the Tokyo subway to prove the effectiveness of Strappy.

Strappy is a boxy little plastic covering that sits over the strap. Many similar strap covers already exist on Tokyo trains, but they're for old-fashioned analog ads, and sometimes QR ads.

Strappy (PDF) contains a reader for FeliCa, a near-field communications standard in Japan used in contactless smart cards like Pasmo, the Tokyo subway's rechargeable card.
When passengers touch a compatible smartphone to the Strappy cover, their browsers are directed to a URL with ads or other info.

You'd think it wouldn't work very well with weak phone signals in between stations, but carriers NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank are currently installing antennae in tunnels to provide service throughout the subway, which carries more than 8 million people per day.

The Shunkosha trial has so far featured strap-sent ads from H.I.S., a major travel agency, on the Ginza and Marunouchi lines. It's scheduled to wrap up this month.
At least it'll be one more diversion for commuters squeezed into subwaycars for hours until they get to work.

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