Windscreen discs just got smarter

New NFC-based system could replace tax discs and service stamps

With the sudden death of the traditional paper tax disc in the UK, the foot-long strip of paper in our windscreens is coming under increasing scrutiny. Tax disc, NCT disc, insurance disc; all must be displayed but all, in their paper form, are vulnerable to simple fraud.

Luminosity, an Irish company established by a group with its working roots in the motor trade, thinks it has a solution and that solution is tiny electronic tags using near field communications technology (NFC). This means the tag in the car can communicate with an electronic device, one that can be as simple as a smartphone using Android software, and in spite of its diminutive size and power, it can communicate a wealth of detail.

Luminosity chief executive Sharon Kavanagh-Banks says the standard of automotive recognition (Soar) system was initially developed as a form of quick and easy stocktaking for vehicle importers who have to deal with huge marshalling yards of cars awaiting delivery to dealers.

“The idea came from us being at manufacturer level, and seeing that these processes were not technology-driven.


“They were very manual, very paper-led. The focus was on the product and the marketing but on how we actually move this car from A to B.

So we looked for a platform that would speed up that process and that would eventually be consumer-friendly. It tracks the car from factory to dealership. It gives visibility to the credit and finance providers as to where that asset is at any given time.”

Luminosity reckoned that GPS tracking devices in the cars was too expensive but by using NFC tags, stock-taking staff could walk along a line of cars, the phone in their hand beeping with recognition of each one and sending the data back to head office in real time.

According to Kavanagh-Banks, the potential saving to the dealer and importer when it comes to this process can be as much as two-thirds of the current cost.

“You don’t need bespoke hardware to read it – you can use an Android phone. The Soar tags themselves are not expensive to get, so that’s how it started and now we can use it for a multitude of information – not just where the car is and what car it is, but we can communicate more details,” says Kavanagh-Banks.

One of the first add-ons to the system was vehicle service histories.By coding the car’s servicing to the tag, consumers could scan the car on the forecourt and see that a full (or otherwise) service history is there, while dealers taking a trade-in could more speedily and accurately assess the value of an incoming car.

“The tag is physically tamper-proof,” Stephen McLernon, sales and marketing director for Luminosity, says. “And we link directly to the chassis number, so when you scan the car, you know it’s that car – it can’t be faked.”

At the stock-checking level, the tags are already in the pilot phase with some key vehicle importers and manufacturers, but the next step is to gain official approval.

“We are already in conversations with the stakeholders such as the Departments of Transport and Environment, Applus, the NCT provider and key members of the insurance community.”

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring