The endless ranks of estate agents' signs peppering towns and cities across the country could be a thing of the past thanks to scientists at Plymouth University.
Academics from the School of Computing and Mathematics have developed a tiny NFC (near field communication) tag which can be placed discreetly at the entrance of a property to signal it is on the market.
Prospective buyers simply touch the tag with their smartphones or tablets, and are then given immediate access to the full particulars of the property.
Professor Martin Tomlinson, Chair in Communications at the University, said: "This app solves the age old problem of how do you put your house on the market without broadcasting the fact to all of your neighbours. Now, prospective buyers register with the estate agent and are given the free App, which enables them to visit the property and immediately see all the particulars including the price. It is easy to use, with the added bonus of reducing the clutter in our towns and countryside."
Linking encrypted NFC tag technology and smartphones is brand new with applications ranging from secure information systems, shopping, ticketing systems and access to technology in general.
The NFC Homes app can easily be installed on a smartphone or Android tablet, and running the app enables any standard NFC tag to be easily written with the encrypted data.
A simple touch of the tag results in the app being automatically launched, reading the data on the tag and displaying the information on the screen, seemingly instantaneously.
The data stored on the NFC tag is encrypted, which means only those buyers registered with an estate agent can access its information.
Professor Tomlinson, who developed the technology alongside Professor Mohammed Zaki Ahmed and Dr Marcel Ambroze, said: "The housing market is the perfect application for this type of technology. People can face a huge number of headaches when buying a house, but this makes at least part of the process much easier. NFC tags also cost less than 50p each and provide much more information than conventional boards. Being able to read a tag with an everyday smartphone just by touching it means the advantages of computer technology will be available to everyone."
Explore further: Increasing ecological understanding with virtual worlds and augmented reality