NFC (Near Field Communication) is being added as a feature on more and more smartphones. A wide variety of Android devices already sport the cool technology with several Blackberries and Windows Phones also offering NFC. Rumors abound that iPhone 5 will also offer this emerging technology.
Unfortunately, many people with an NFC enabled device don’t even know that they have it and if they do, what to do with. This week, we’ll give a very quick NFC-101 lesson as well as share a video tutorial as an example of what NFC can do.
First off, does my phone have NFC? I’ve talked to a whole bunch of family, friends and co-workers that didn’t even realize their phone was NFC enabled after they see me use it on my device. Fiddling around in your settings will likely tell you as you’ll see options to enable the feature or not. You can check a comprehensive list on NFCWorld.com of all currently enabled devices.
What is it? Near Field Communications. Simply another standard (like Bluetooth or WiFi) of wireless technology allowing data to be exchanged between two devices. The devices could simply be two smart phones. Likewise, the other device could be a payment terminal (Google Wallet), or an NFC tag which is a small microchip embedded in stickers, tags, wristbands, or other items.
How are NFC tags powered and how close do you need to be to them? Like many RFID tags, NFC needs no battery power as they are “energized” by the signals that are attempting to read them. So bringing your mobile phone near an NFC tag will give it power. You typically need to be about an inch away or so.
How do I encode my tags and can’t someone just overwrite them? There are many apps with whatever phone platform you are using that allow for NFC tag writing and management. I happen to use NFC Task Launcher by Tagstand on my Android. Once your tag is created, you have the option of making it “Read Only” so it can’t be written over by someone else if your tag is in a public location.
What can NFC tags do? NFC is pretty powerful with what it can and will be able to do. From payments to built-in sharing (like the Galaxy SIII’s) and many other uses coming down the pike, I have a feeling NFC will become quite popular in the coming years. Today, just using NFC with tags gives you a slew of possibilities. Here’s a few of the things that you can do with NFC:
- Toggle Settings (Bluetooth ON/OFF for example)
- Go to specific URL
- Create macro with many different actions (see example below)
- Launch applications and shortcuts
- Social media update/check-in
- Generally: Pretty much anything you can do with your device already.
Practical Uses Your creativity is the only limit to what NFC can do for you. I have a handful of tags that I use around my house, in my car and at my office. For example, I have a tag stuck to my sun visor that I wave my phone by when getting in my car. With that simple action, I am able to Turn Bluetooth On, Turn WiFi Off, Turn Volume to Max, Change My Ringtone from less obtrusive one I use in the house, Switch to ‘Car Mode’, and open my music player.
Likewise, for the video tutorial I created below, this is also a set of actions when I put my phone on a stand on my bedside table. Laying my phone onto the dock I made performs the following actions: Turn WiFi, Data and Bluetooth Off, Open Clock, Turn Volume Down, Turn Vibration Off, Turn Brightness to Zero, and set my alarm.
The example below uses Sugru, but you can figure out how to make a desktop dock without it of course. Likewise, NFC tags typically come with pretty strong adhesive as well.
I bought my tags at tagsfordroid.com but there are dozens of places that sell them relatively cheaply so go out there, create some tags and have fun!
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