Austrian startup RealLifeConnect is adding support for China’s Sina Weibo to its social media check-in stations. To back that up, RealLifeConnect is launching in China, pushing its RFID/NFC-equipped hardware to allow people to shout out to Weibo from these terminals, either from events, exhibitions, or stores.
The idea behind RealLifeConnect is that it links real-world spaces with digital networks, forming what CEO Michael Ionita-Ganea calls “offline social media.” The two other founders are Christoph Wagner (CFO), and Juergen Hoebarth (CVO). Juergen tells us that its Asia operations are run out of Hong Kong, and that the company is now working with partners in China to develop “solutions for certain consumer brands” – to be revealed at a later date. With Sina Weibo now added to the line-up, the startup can tout access to the Twitter-like Chinese site and its 300+ million registered users.
RealLifeConnect doesn’t rely on people using their own phones, since NFC uptake in smartphones has been lackluster. Instead, says Juergen, “We are doing it with RFID/NFC cards or tokens – they have an RFID/NFC chip inside which is linked up with your Weibo profile during the registration process” (pictured below). The chips inside these things are cheap, so they’ll be given to folks for free by brands or event organizers. And then, if you opt to interact with one of the stations, you’ll be able to quickly and seamlessly do things like check-in to an event or store on Weibo, or post about your experience there. In theory, this is a way for brands to get more people posting about them on Weibo, bolstering their social media marketing efforts.
As for the idea’s genesis, Juergen explains:
The initial seed to linking up the physical world with the digital one and RealLifeConnect was born back in summer 2010 during a roadtrip to a conference between me and Michael Ionita. This was just a few days after Facebook released Facebook places which allows users to check-in at venues. We were brainstorming ideas and came to the conclusion sooner or later we will check in to all things around us not only places and visioned about what would be possible with this.
Michael was at this time already involved and made a major contribution with his knowledge around Facebook’s API and its possibilities. Both me and Michael presented the concept to people around us which are working in the advertising and social media space, and we recognised a demand for a easy to use one shop stop solution for a service like this which resulted into incorporating RealLifeConnect finally in May 2011 where we already started to do the first smaller projects as test pilots before going fully operation with our platform in autumn 2011 supporting social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Linkedin.
Variations of its social media check-in stations can do other things like transferring files or contact details via NFC or RFID. The hardware can be rented or bought, depending on how long the store or event wants to have the installation.
RealLifeConnect says it has seen 50 successful cases of its kit in action across five continents in just the past 10 months. Right now it’s hiring and scaling globally, and attracted some useful seed funding of $120,000 at the end of 2011.
Here’s a three-minute demo video mixed in with scenes from RealLifeConnect’s recent China launch: