Nappula facilitates day care work in Helsinki
The Nappula pilot project introducing the use of RFID tags started in two kindergartens in Helsinki in May. The new technology is used with mobile phones and it provides kindergartens with new tools and more flexible practices. The pilot project aims at testing how RFID technology can best be utilised in the everyday work of kindergartens. In the first phase, the pilot covered two groups in the Herttoniemi and Tuoriniemi day care centres, and in the autumn it was expanded to cover two more groups.
The idea behind Nappula is simple. Parents receive stickers with an RFID tag. When they bring their child to day care, the teacher reads the tag using an NFC phone. This is like the child’s log-in. The phone confirms the receipt of the child’s data with a vibration and sound signal. The day care staff can monitor log-ins in real time. In this way, it is easy to check which children have already arrived and which are home with an illness, for example. The day care centre’s manager can also track the situation with his or her phone.
Nappula does not aim at automating childcare. However, the technology facilitates monitoring, reporting and log-keeping procedures, leaving more time to actually be with the children and educate them. The service is secure and it does not compromise the data security of the children, parents or day care staff in any way.
“The system accurately indicates when the responsibility for the child shifts to the kindergarten and, at the end of the day, back to the parent. The service also enhances safety: for example, in case of a fire alarm, the teachers can check from their phones which children are there that day, instead of relying on their memory,” explains Sivi Holtinkoski, Business Development Manager from WhileOnTheMove.
Development based on user experience
The service concept has been developed in close cooperation with day care professionals and parents. The pilot project has proceeded gradually, and user experiences have been actively utilised.
“It is vitally important to get as much feedback as possible. This helps us develop the service so that it provides better support for the everyday work at kindergartens. User experiences are paramount,” emphasises Project Manager Kaisa Spilling from Forum Virium Helsinki, the coordinator of the pilot project.
The tags have functioned well at day care centres, and users have found the application to be simple to use.
“At first, learning to use the new phone and application meant extra work and effort. Once the staff got used to them and learned more about them, the service has facilitated their work. Even I can use it,” says Kati Raitio, who works in the Tuoriniemi day care centre, with a laugh.
Success through cooperation
The pilot project is coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki, the organisation responsible for the planning and implementation of the project in cooperation with the Social Services Department of Helsinki. There is also cooperation with the City of Oulu, which is running a similar pilot project. The Nappula service is produced by the Oulu-based company WhileOnTheMove with design agency Nordkapp responsible for the concept design.
The pilot also involves the TagAge service developed by Hansaprint. TagAge offers an easy web-to-print solution for customised NFC tags. The stickers used in the project are printed by Hansaprint and equipped with the UPM CircusTM tag featuring a 23 mm antenna and 64 bytes memory.
“This is the smallest tag in our product range and it enables us to make stickers of a practical size, with a diameter of only 29 mm,” Hansaprint’s Sales and Development Manager Taisto Junkkari tells us.
In the pilot project, the stickers are attached to mobile phones. This means that they must be durable. In order to ensure this, the stickers are laminated to protect the printed surface against wear and abrasion. Normally, the metal contained in a mobile phone disturbs or even hinders the reading of an NFC tag.
“In order to avoid such problems, we chose to use Label-on-Metal stickers that contain ferrite, which prevents interference caused by metal,” Junkkari explains.
The pilot will continue in the kindergartens until next spring. It is part of the more extensive, EU-funded Smart Urban Spaces project that will be concluded in 2012.
Text: Juhani Hyvärinen, Kerttu Louho