What the gods would destroy they first give to corporate brand managers

That’s a TikiTag there.

Took a first look at TikiTag. It’s perfect for Santa Cruz. It could put geeks on the beach. If we can save it from the suits.

Saw it at the Showstoppers event at CES last month, and the TikiTag people were kind enough to send me a demo kit.

Technically, it’s simple. The kit contains a USB-enabled RFID reader and ten sticky RFID tags. Download the app from the website, set up an account, plug in the reader, swipe a tag and something happens.

“Something” is defined by a web-based app on the TikiTag server. For example, one app is a “social business card”. When you swipe the tag, a browser window appears with, say, your current Twitter and Flickr feeds and links to your Facebook and Linkedin profiles. You stick a tag on the back of a business card and give it to someone while you’re networking at Rosie McCann’s. If she has a TikiTag reader too, when she gets home she’ll swipe the card and see you in all your glory.

It can also function as an alternate user interface. Put a tag on a teddy bear, then your toddler smacks the reader with the bear and something absolutely fascinating appears. You get a few minutes of peace and quiet. Combined with a USB-enabled taser, it could be a powerful pedagogic tool.

Another use is simplifying remote access. Borrow a computer at NextSpace, swipe the tag attached to your key ring, and your desktop pops up.

There’s more. Something physical moves somewhere in the world and triggers something else via the web. The TikiTag people call it “the Internet of things”.

If an ecosystem develops, it is a powerful idea. It needs to go viral for the really cool stuff to appear, though.

One promising step they’ve already taken is enabling it via a two-dimensional bar code. It’s something you can print on your card, or send via mobile phone. It’s even conceivable to hack a reader into your phone’s camera. Eliminates the need to buy a gadget.

Unfortunately, it’s starting to lean in a corporate direction. Not surprisingly, it’s owned by Alcatel-Lucent, which is about as grey-suit as it gets.

First sign of trouble is that the suits have renamed the company. It’s now called Touchatag™. TikiTag had potential. It could have become a verb. “Next time you’re in town, why don’t you TikiTag me?” But Touchatagging™ someone sounds, well, creepy.

Why did they do it? It doesn’t sing, but it does look better on the purchase order you submit to accounting. According to their Facebook page:

“We changed our name today, and we hope you love it as much as we do. Touchatag™ expresses exactly what it is about and fits our dream: make every application we use better via an easy, fast and intuitive one touch user interaction.”

Unfortunately, that’s not my dream. I want to make a living sitting on a beach wearing a Samoan shirt while listening to Radio Margaritaville. Slap a TikiTag on an umbrella drink and I’m good to go.

The sun is shining on Monterey Bay, and it’s just dipped below the yardarm. Time to go do a little product development work…