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You might remember that it was a big deal when the Apple added NFC to the iPhone 6 back in 2014, a feature that Android users have been fortunate enough to have for several years now. You might also remember thinking, “So… what does that mean for me?”

Good question.

If you’re tired of being told about “revolutionary” new technologies but never understanding exactly how to make use of them, don’t worry. A lot of people feel that way about NFC in smartphones What Is NFC & Should You Buy a Phone That Has It? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is NFC & Should You Buy a Phone That Has It? [MakeUseOf Explains] If you’re in the market for a new phone in 2013, you’re probably going to hear about something called NFC, and how it’s apparently changing the world. Don’t be fooled by the sales talk though.... Read More , so you’re definitely not alone. We’re here to help you out.

What Is NFC?

Near Field Communication (NFC) allows wireless communication between two electronic devices that are close to each other (officially up to 4cm apart, but in practice it can be up to 10cm).

Writeable NFC tags can be very small and unpowered as the reading device can generate a Radio Frequency (RF) field that can power the tag.

NFC-Shutterstock

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Also, sorry iPhone users: most of these awesome ways to use NFC don’t (currently) apply to you. Although Apple started building NFC chips into their phones from the iPhone 6 in order to support Apple Pay How To Use Apple Pay To Buy Things With Your iPhone How To Use Apple Pay To Buy Things With Your iPhone Your iPhone may some day be the only device you need to purchase products and services, but first you need to start using Apple Pay. Read More , they have restricted the use of their NFC to just Apple Pay for now.

What You’ll Need

RapidNFC has a great guide on the features of the NFC chips that you can purchase. For reference, I used NTAG213 NFC chipped tags for all the tasks in this article.

1. Instantly Add a Wi-Fi Network

No longer do you have to scribble down your long and indecipherable Wi-Fi password on a scrappy bit of paper for when you have guests over.

Write-WiFi-To-NFC-Screenshot

NFC can replace that cumbersome process with a simple tap. You can use Trigger, or long press on the Wi-Fi network in “Settings” in Android 5.0.1 and above, to write the Wi-Fi network information to an NFC tag that anyone can tap and they will be instantly connected to your network.

2. Get Yourself Out of Bed

If you’re anything like me, getting yourself out of bed in the morning is a huge challenge. Although I use one of the best Android sleep trackers Can An App Really Help You Sleep Better? Can An App Really Help You Sleep Better? I've always been a bit of a sleep experimenter, having for much of my life kept a meticulous dream diary and studied as much as I could about sleeping in the process. There are a... Read More  — the Sleep As Android app — I still find it tough to avoid snoozing the alarm and continue in my sleep.

Luckily, Sleep As Android has a system for helping you with that called “Captchas Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About CAPTCHAs But Were Afraid To Ask [Technology Explained] Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About CAPTCHAs But Were Afraid To Ask [Technology Explained] Love them or hate them - CAPTCHAs have become ubiquitous on the Internet. What on earth is a CAPTCHA anyway, and where did it come from? Responsible for eye-strain the world over, the humble CAPTCHA... Read More “. These are widely used on the Internet to verify that you are human, but within the app they are used to check if you are really awake.

Sleep-As-Android-NFC-Captcha-Screenshot

The app has support for NFC “Captchas”, so set up a tag, place it somewhere difficult to reach from your bed. When your next alarm signals that morning has come around again, you will be forced to get yourself out of bed and tap the tag in order to shut off the alarm.

3. Digital Business Cards

Now that we carry all our contact information on our phones, does it make sense to design, purchase, and carry around little bits of card with contact information we can’t change? Of course not.

That’s why an NFC business card is such an awesome idea. Simply grab a tag and write your contact information, social media details, and any relevant websites to it. Now you have a highly customizable business card that will stand out at conferences 13 Creative Business Card Ideas to Help You Stand Out 13 Creative Business Card Ideas to Help You Stand Out In the rough-and-tumble world of business, nothing helps you stand out more than a memorable business card. Here are a few ideas to help make yours stand out. Read More .

A plus side to using NFC tags is that you can put more or different information than you would on a traditional card, which are more known for their minimalist designs. Alternatively, if you’re after a more professional look, you could always get these NFC Business Cards from Moo, thus combining the best of both worlds.

4. Launch a Website URL

Open-Website-NFC

There might be times when you want to direct someone to a specific website. This can be a bit tricky, especially if it’s not a simple website address. Instead of having them type out a long random URL, you can write the URL to an NFC tag. When tapped, it loads the user’s mobile browser and directs them straight to the site you wanted.

If you’re thinking that this could be used maliciously, you could be right. Be sure to stay on top of all the potential NFC security risks Using NFC? 3 Security Risks To Be Aware Of Using NFC? 3 Security Risks To Be Aware Of NFC, which stands for near-field communication, is the next evolution and is already a core feature in some of the newer smartphone models like the Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S4. But as with all... Read More  that currently exist!

5. Get Into “Driving Mode”

A smartphone can be a great companion when going driving as it allows you to juggle navigation, music, and hands-free calls. But it can sometimes be a bit of a hassle to set each service up when you first get into the car.

Instead of manually setting them up each time you get in the car, you can use Trigger to set up multiple stacked actions on an NFC tag. Stacked actions allow you to program multiple actions to happen simultaneously when you tap the tag.

NFC-Drive-Mode-Edit

Once you have set up your tag, simply stick it onto your Car Dock, and then every time you get into the car you can instantly get your “Driving Mode” open.

Trigger even allows you to set up a “toggle” to reverse the actions, so if you turn Bluetooth on when getting into the car, you can tap the tag again to turn it off when leaving the car.

I’ve been using this for a few years now. I have the tag setup to turn Wi-Fi off, turn Bluetooth on, and open Waze, but you can set the NFC tag to perform any set of actions that suit you.

6. Boot Up Your Computer

There’s nothing worse than coming home from a long day at work, throwing down your bag, getting changed, and then when you finally sit down at your computer… having to wait for it to boot.

Luckily, Reddit user Captainmathmo came up with a great way to wake your computer up when you get in the door by simply tapping an NFC tag so that it’s ready to go as soon as you are.

You do need to have a computer capable of receiving Wake-On-LAN requests, as well as apps to set up the WLAN, the automation app Tasker, and Trigger to write the NFC tag. If you fancy a project to you should check the Reddit post out for a full setup guide.

7. NFC Smart Clothing

If you are super excited about being able to buy NFC-enabled smart clothing, you should know that Samsung is getting into the game with their TheHumanFit clothing brand.

One of the products they demoed at CES 2016 was a “Smart Suit” and the jacket’s wrist buttons were NFC buttons with preset actions, like turning your phone to silent during meetings.

Although there is no fixed release date for their smart clothing, it gives a good look at the direction NFC clothing will be going. If you want to beat Samsung to it, buy some of these NFC buttons and get to creating your own NFC suit.

And that’s not all. In addition to clothing, there are also NFC Rings — small NFC-enabled devices that allow you to do things like unlock and open your doors, unlock your smartphone, or store NFC tag data like website URLs or Wi-Fi information. They can even act as authenticators to identify you (like trusted devices for Android).

8. Automate Common Phone Tasks

There are some things that you do on your phone that could do with “shortcuts”, such as calling a friend or family member, opening your camera quickly so you don’t miss a great shot, or opening your favorite apps.

Dimple has created a way to make those common tasks quicker using NFC. The “Dimples” are physical buttons attached to your device near the NFC chip. When pressed, they activate a custom NFC task, which you can set using their app.

9. Get Your Game On

While Disney has “Infinity” and Activision has “Skylander”, Nintendo has “Amiibo”. Just like their counterparts, Nintendo’s “smart toys” allow players to use physical toys to interact with games by tapping them on a reader, which can unlock new content and new characters.

The main difference between Amiibo and its competitors is that it uses NFC rather than RFID.

Not only that, but Nintendo has found another way to tap into its nostalgia machine: trading cards. (Similar to what they did with Pokemon back in the day.) Only this time they equipped one card in each pack with NFC to allow additional characters in the digital counterpart.

How Do You Use NFC?

As you can see, NFC can be a cheap, easy, and fun way to automate mundane tasks, simplify having guests around, and even interact between physical and digital worlds.

These are just a handful of the more useful and awesome things you can currently do with NFC, but there are a lot of other uses out there and more are being developed all the time. Check out this list of every NFC enabled thing to get a glimpse.

In the meantime, enjoy using NFC with Apple or Android Pay Everything You Need to Know about Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay Everything You Need to Know about Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay all have their advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look at exactly how each of them works and who can use them. Read More when you grab your next Grande Latte from Starbucks.

Have you ever tried any of these uses for NFC? Are there any you think we missed? Do you think NFC will start integrating into our lives? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: LDprod via Shutterstock.com

  1. Jeremy
    October 27, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Great article, thank! As of Oct 2016, is there any word on Apple and iPhone/iOS Devices being able to use NFC?
    Cheers

    • James Frew
      October 27, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      No movement from Apple with their position on NFC. If anything, they have only clarified they have no plans to open NFC up on iOS. During a disagreement with Australian banks during the Summer of 2016, they stated that opening NFC would "be a security risk".

  2. PakkyT
    July 15, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    I keep a tag with my work badge that when I touch my phone will silence the phone for 55 minutes then restore volumes to normal. Why 55 minutes instead of an hour for meetings? Because after 55 minutes if the meeting isn't wrapping up, I would welcome a phone call to allow me to excuse myself. :)

    There are a number of things I do with Tasker (a great App, although steep learning curve) automatically setting stuff based on my location (which cell towers are nearby). But if I didn't use Tasker I would do with NFC tags. For example a tag on my work desk to set volumes and my ring tone to more "work appropriate" volumes and content. Tapping it again at the end of the day would restore more obnoxious levels and content.

    I have a tag on my (WiFi only) iPad cover that starts my phone's "hotspot" and connects to the phone to get internet access when not near other WiFi. A second tap shuts down the phone's hotspot.

    A hidden tag on your work desk for that coworker you really don't want to talk to comes by or the one you like but after 10 minutes you wish they would wrap it up. Set up the tag to start a timer, say 40 seconds (so it isn't obvious this happens right after you move the phone to the tag), then either have your ringer go off ("oh, I have to take this") or have your phone send a text to a coworker to call you or come over to ask you if you can pop into a meeting.

    • James Frew
      July 17, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Those are some great ideas, thanks for sharing them. I really like the iPad tag for the hotspot because I have a Wi-Fi only iPad too, so it might turn out really useful.

      Tasker is great but I agree its a steep learning curve, there is an easier and more starter friendly alternative though called Trigger.

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jwsoft.nfcactionlauncher

      • PakkyT
        July 17, 2016 at 10:16 pm

        I do use Trigger already. Great program. But coupled with Tasker the pair make a very powerful combination. One of the features of Trigger is that you can trigger Tasker tasks. Where this comes in handy are A) Tasker can do a lot of things Trigger can not, but you can still use Trigger to read the tag then run the Tasker task to do those other things. And B) NFC tags only hold so much and after a few things added to the tag, it can fill up limited you to just a handful of operations on a single tag. With Trigger being used to run a Tasker task you now have virtually unlimited NFC tag storage, so to speak.

        As an example, the NFC tag in my car I read with Trigger where Trigger does some things and runs Tasker tasks to do the rest. So one swipe of the tag and I turn off Wifi, Turn on Blue Tooth, Turn on GPS, max out my volumes, pick a particularly LOUD ringtone, turns on Waze (mapping application), & shows a pop up to show I am now in "car mode". A second scan of the same tag reverses everything (normal volumes, normal ringtone, Bluetooth and GPS off, shut down Waze). Unfortunately Trigger can not do all that and certainly not from a single NFC tag. So Trigger can call on Tasker to help out.

        • James Frew
          July 19, 2016 at 11:18 am

          Great setup - although I have a bias since I do the same too!

  3. Davin Peterson
    April 18, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Note that you cannot do this on a iPhone because Apple limits what you do with the NFC chip - only for Apple Pay

    • James Frew
      April 19, 2016 at 6:19 am

      Hopefully we will see Apple opening up their NFC with the next iPhone. I did mention at the start of the article that the NFC doesn't operate on iOS.

  4. likefun butnot
    April 18, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    I have NFC pads mounted at my front door and in the entrances to my kitchen and bathroom that switch my phone's audio output to the most appropriate bluetooth output.

    • James Frew
      April 18, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      That's a great use for it. Do you use that with multiple devices too? Are they both Bluetooth speakers?

      • likefun butnot
        April 18, 2016 at 10:02 pm

        I have Bluetooth receivers all over my place and headphones I wear when I leave the house. I don't like to carry my phone everywhere I go, so between that and carefully customized alert sounds and scripts, I can tell who is sending me messages and or if they're terribly important.

        Ideally, I wish I could have audio and video follow me as I move through my home, but the tech for that isn't quite affordable yet.

        • James Frew
          April 19, 2016 at 6:21 am

          That's the ideal isn't it. Maybe one day NFC clothing will help with that. In the meantime though have you considered using a wireless speaker system like Sonos? Or do you not use streaming services?

        • likefun butnot
          April 19, 2016 at 8:16 am

          Streaming music services are inadequate for my interests and the speakers I'm using are probably nicer anyway. The most likely option for my entertainment needs us to send output from my local file server through Kodi or Plex. I have repurposed old tablets to manage that.

        • James Frew
          April 19, 2016 at 10:44 am

          Plex is easily my favorite for streaming local video, but I have found that using Google Play Music I can upload my local library and then can stream it and its even free which is a bonus. Have you tried that?

        • likefun butnot
          April 19, 2016 at 12:49 pm

          I have both Google Play and Amazon Prime Music as full as I can get them, but why bother with that when I can get Kodi to play full-quality FLACs or 24/192kHz SACD rips? Plex is also kind of hopeless for my music (a lot of things don't understand classical music; the metadata needs are very different) so having something like Kodi that just presents my existing directory structures on my file server works better than anything else.
          Streaming isn't really relevant. Everything I do at home is direct-play from a file server. Plex just exposes content for friends and/or my use when I'm traveling.

          Also, this has nothing to do with NFC.

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