Skip the waiter and order with this Bluetooth mat

PaperBeacon sends location IDs to mobile devices and could be used in restaurants and schools

A TagCast staffer demoed the PaperBeacon Bluetooth LE mat, which lets an app called Putmenu place orders for food, in Tokyo on May 29, 2015.

A TagCast staffer demoed the PaperBeacon Bluetooth LE mat, which lets an app called Putmenu place orders for food, in Tokyo on May 29, 2015.

If you hate waiting for restaurant servers and can't abide mistakes in your order, there's an app -- and a mat -- for that.

Putmenu lets diners send their choices directly to a restaurant's kitchen once they place their smartphone on a smart mat. All they have to do is pick up the mat's ID via a Bluetooth LE link, order through the app and wait for the food to arrive.

Of course, it also minimizes human interaction with restaurant staff and could threaten their jobs. But someone still has to bring out the food.

At a demo in Tokyo on Friday, a smartphone with the app was placed on the Bluetooth mat. The mat's ID was immediately registered, allowing burgers on a mock menu to be ordered. The order was then printed by a cloud-linked kitchen terminal.

Although Putmenu is still in the testing phase, restaurant ordering is the first application being promoted by the mat's makers, which include major Japanese fiber manufacturer Teijin.

The recently developed PaperBeacon, as it's called, is a bit bigger than a sheet of printer paper and measures 1mm thick. Each mat has a unique ID number managed in a cloud-based database. When an app picks up a mat's ID, it queries the database and sends the order to a restaurant's kitchen printer.

The mats are coated in white plastic, run on a one-year battery and contain a flat Bluetooth tag with a limited range of about 2cm, spread out over the entire surface.

A phone or tablet next to the mat won't pair with it, ensuring that the order is associated with a mat and that individuals can be identified in a group of users. As long as they don't play musical chairs, of course.

The app can save diners and staff time and can display restaurant menus in the user's preferred language, reducing confusion for foreign tourists, said Tony Saito, CEO of U.S.-based developer Putmenu, which plans field trials starting in July.

"PaperBeacon apps could also have credit card and other e-payment options that would make splitting the bill for groups of diners easy, since they know exactly what each person ordered," said Akatsuki Torii, CEO of TagCast, a Tokyo-based location information startup that developed with mat with Teijin and Cell Cross, a spinoff of the University of Tokyo.

The companies plan to ship about 10,000 PaperBeacons, which start at ¥5,000 (US$40) with an initial ¥800 monthly service fee, to enterprise users over the next year, envisioning a ¥50 trillion market for beacon technology in the future.

They also see the mats being integrated into classroom desks so that students can use them to authenticate their tablets for attendance, lesson materials and other functions.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CellFormInternet-based applications and servicesTagCastconsumer electronicssmartphonesUniversity of TokyoTeijininternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?