As a senior coping with recent vision loss you have likely already learned that two of the most often asked questions among those with visual impairments are "What is it?" and "Where Did It go?" In the February 2017 special seniors issue of AccessWorld we tackled these vexing questions with several low-tech tricks and a number of high-tech solutions, including a pair of voice-labeling solutions: the Pen Friend 2 and talking labels from Envision Eli. In this article we'll introduce you to a third high tech solution: WayTags and the WayLink from a Plano, Texas startup called WayAround.
WayTags are tiny Near Field Communication (NFC)-chip enabled stickers, buttons, magnets, and clips that transmit data to the WayAround smartphone app or the hand-held WayLink , discussed below. You can use WayTags to mark and identify everything from holiday gifts to condiment bottles to over-the-counter medications and prescriptions. Simply touch the top edge of your iPhone 7 or above or Android smartphone to the tag and your custom label will appear on your device's screen and be spoken aloud, assuming you are running the VoiceOver touch screen reader on your iPhone or TalkBack for Android devices. (Note, some Android smartphones place the NFC reader elsewhere on the device. Consult your owner's guide.) If your iPhone is an older model or you use an iPad or Android tablet, read on and we'll tell you how you can use WayTags, too.
WayTags are available for purchase at the WayAround e-store, which you can reach either via the company's homepage or through the Settings menu on the WayAround app discussed in the next section. The tags come in various shapes and sizes, from tiny magnets and adhesive-backed stickers to sew-on buttons and clips that can easily be removed and reattached. Most are round, but some are square, which identifies them as shielded so they can be used on metal surfaces.
Each WayTag can be programmed with up to 2,000 characters. The information can also be organized into fields, such as "Ingredients," "Preparation," and "Nutrition Information" for that new recipe you want to try attached to the butcher-paper wrapped salmon in your fridge. They can be edited with new information, or cleared and reused from scratch.
The WayAround App
The WayAround mobile app is available free from both the iOS App Store and Google Play. If you set up an account when you purchased your tags you will be asked to log in the first time you launch the app—otherwise simply enter your email address and a password of your choice to create a new WayAround account.
The apps are optimized to work with VoiceOver and TalkBack, and include either two or three controls, depending on whether you are using an iPhone or Android smartphone. The iOS app includes controls to Read, Edit, and Write WayTags. The Android version does not include a Read button, because the Android OS allows apps to place the device in continuous standby read mode, whereas Apple only allows third-party apps to read a single NFC chip with each press of an application control.
What this means is that once the Android WayAround app is open, all you need to do is touch the top of your phone to a chip until you feel a double click, and the app will voice the WayTag information automatically. A second tap to a second chipped item will announce that item in turn. iPhone users must press the Read button first, then position the phone for each item to be identified. Of course if this is your first time using WayAround you won't have any tags programmed yet.
Double tap the app's Create button and you will be prompted to begin entering the information you wish to associate with a particular WayTag. Type or dictate in any desired text, such as "Milk. Expiration date is April 12," or "Blue and white silk blouse."
Now, swipe down to the Detail type. Your choices are: none, clothing care, groceries, files, cleaning supplies, personal care, and custom. For that silk blouse you might wish to select clothing care and use the second edit box that appears to list the garment's washing instructions. You might then create a custom "Ensemble" category to list which slacks and skirts go well with this blouse.
WayTags can include as many category listings as you wish, so long as the total of categories and text is less than 2,000 characters. Creating a WayTag for your toolbox may seem unnecessary at first thought. After all, you know where your toolbox is and are not likely to mistake it for a rake or the hot water heater. But what about those six drawers? You could create a WayTag that reads "Toolbox," with six fields, one for each drawer, each of them listing the tools that are inside--or, more likely—that are supposed to be inside.
Once you have the identification just so, select a WayTag. A magnetic tag might be an excellent choice to attach to the side of your steel toolbox, while a WayTag button could either be sewn near the bottom or safety pinned to the label of the blouse. WayTag buttons can be put through the washer and drier with no ill effects.
Finally, return to the WayAround app and double tap the Write control. You will be prompted to touch the tag with the top edge of your phone. When you hear and feel the double click, your tag has been registered. Go ahead and use the Read button to confirm. You will likely find NFC tags easier to use than barcodes or QR codes. Each of those depends on either a smartphone camera or dedicated laser device, and aiming can problematic, especially if your hands are not rock steady. NFC chips, on the contrary, require nothing more than a simple tap—easy-peasy.
You can change the information on a WayTag at any time in two ways:
- Use the Edit control to add or delete specific information from a tag.
- Use the Create control to compose a new WayTag, then the Write control to erase the old information and replace it with the new. Caution: There is no prompt warning you will be overwriting previous information.
Each WayTag contains a unique identification code, which the WayAround app associates with the information you have provided. A copy of this information is kept on your device, so you can use WayTags even when you don't have an internet connection. A second copy is stored on WayAround servers, so if you need to replace your phone, the data can be downloaded. This also means a couple can both use the same WayTags by simply logging onto the same account. If your spouse changes, adds, or edits a WayTag the app will spot the difference the very next time you run the app and incorporate the changes into your phone's storage.
But My Device Doesn't Support NFC
As mentioned, for WayTags to work, your smartphone must be NFC enabled. This includes most Android phones and iPhones version 7 and above. You can still use WayTags with older phones and tablets, however, using a WayLink. WayLink is a fit-in-your-palm-sized add-on that reads NFC chips and then transmits the information to your WayAround app via Bluetooth. Enable and disable WayLink via the app's Settings menu. Optionally, you can enter the last six digits of your WayLink's serial number to link it to your WayAround account specifically. Now at one of the summer conventions your WayLink won't try to connect to someone else's smartphone.
WayTag Round Stickers, 25 Pack, $22.99
WayTag Magnets 25 Pack, $27.99
Laundry Starter Pack, includes 25 WayTag two-hole buttons and a blind-friendly sewing kit, $39.99
WayLink Scanner, $99.99
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
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