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A poken

Poken is a technology that utilizes Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to allow the exchange of online social networking data between two keychain accessories. Each person involved in the exchange must have his or her own poken. The primary information exchanged via the poken is a ‘social business card’, a digital replacement for a physical business card. By touching two devices together, a unique ID is exchanged that links to contact information on the Poken website. Contact information acquired by use of the poken can be uploaded to the poken website using a built-in USB connector.

In addition to the contact information found on a typical business card, links to users’ social networks can also be added. Examples include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and 40+ other social networks. Users of the Poken website can use a ‘social dashboard’ to manage, and interact with their contacts.

Pokens are used for social networking, personal identification and as a device for loyalty programs. Bloggers and social media addicts have taken it up for networking event such as tweet-ups. Corporations such as BMW and IBM use pokens at their conferences[citation needed], to enhance interaction with the conference attendees and to facilitate business networking.

Poken is sold through a network of resellers and web shops in over 40 countries. Early adopter countries have been South Africa, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany and more recently the United States and Australia.


The company Poken S.A. was founded in December 2007 in Lausanne, Switzerland, by Stéphane Doutriaux. The founder had come up with the business idea while doing his MBA at IMD, a business school in Lausanne. The development of the technology was done in collaboration with the Berner Fachhochschule, a university of applied sciences situated in Biel, Switzerland. The project start was in July 2008 and ended in December of the same year . The first product range called the ‘Sparks’ was introduced in January 2009. Poken S.A. launched the poken ‘Pulse’ (with 2 GB memory) in September 2009 .

The name 'Poken' comes from the initial project which the founder started that sparked the idea for the final version of the project. The project started out as a 'Poker' 'Token'. The name stuck and became what we know today as 'Poken'.


The electronics are produced by Art of Technology, Zurich [1]. Early devices use a PIC microcontroller PIC18F14K50 [2][3]. This PIC provides a USB interface. The Mass Storage Device is implemented in code within the PIC. A software radio proprietary protocol is used to directly drive a small coil. The frequency is observed to be around 125 kHz. The radio exchange is claimed to be secured by a 256bit AES key [4]. The main chip is labeled differently in later devices (though still labeled MicroChip) - and is likely an OEM version of the same chip albeit with small modifications to reduce cost or power.

Typical Usage[edit]

A typical usage scenario consists of:

  1. Two users meet
  2. The users "high fours" their Poken, holding them against each other such that the coils inside the tokens are more or less aligned
  3. The two Poken flash green to signal that a bond was made
  4. At home, the users plug their tokens into their USB ports
  5. The tokens are recognized as standard (read only) disks
  6. The users open HTML files from their disks
  7. The HTML files contain a page which forwards the users to the Poken websites
  8. The website detects any new pokens seen and adds them to the user's timeline and contact list.

The user's poken contact card can contain any information they want to share, for example URLs, mobile number, email address, and location. It can also be configured with links to the user on over 40 social networking sites. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Ning, and more. Each social network is represented with an icon on the user's contact card, and is just one click to the user on that respective social network. From there, the standard "friending" or connecting rules apply.

Contacts can also be exported from the poken user hub to vCards or Apple Mail.


External links[edit]