Want to live in a world where you can use your Android phone to unlock your front door, boot your PC or launch Google Maps when you place it in your car? You can do all this and more with NFC tags, small programmable devices that can make your life better. Don’t believe me?
NFC = Near-Field Communication
Near-field communication is a means of sharing data between two NFC-enabled devices. Unlike wireless networking, infra-red and Bluetooth, however, it requires contact to be made between the devices in question. Matt’s article What Is NFC & Should You Buy a Phone That Has It? explains NFC in more detail.
Data can be shared using NFC (you might share data between two NFC-capable phones by tapping them together) and this could be anything from a photo to an MP3. The Nintendo Wii U handheld component features NFC, while the Nintendo 3DS is equipped with the NFC-like Street Pass technology.
NFC has possibilities beyond sharing songs and getting in-game bonuses, however. With the purchase of tags – perhaps keychains, stickers or NFC-equipped objects – you can program your Android device to perform specific tasks based on proximity to a suitably-placed NFC tag.
Choosing An NFC App For Android
While Android is already equipped with NFC, you’ll need to install an NFC tag writing app to get started. Trigger is a good all-in-one option that allows you to program and read NFC tags, and proves a good alternative to the popular automation app Tasker when you upgrade to the premium version, with added location and time triggers.
After equipping your phone, make sure you have some NFC tags. Adhesive tags are remarkably useful and can be bought – along with the keychain tags – inexpensively from Amazon and eBay.
Using NFC Tags Around The House
The general effect of using NFC tags is that they will be scattered around your home, so make sure you’re using labels that match your décor and don’t cause problems with your spouse or housemates; consider this a protip!
You might, for instance, use NFC to launch your Android’s TV remote app when you place your phone on your chair arm. NFC can also be used to switch on a PC (when combined with a Wake on LAN app and a Wake on LAN-enabled PC), share your home Wi-Fi password with guests and even set a timer for your tumble dryer or oven.
NFC might also be used to disable your phone’s network connectivity and audio alerts when you go to bed, and re-enable them when you wake up.
Turn Android Into A Carputer With An NFC Tag
Perhaps one of the most impressive uses for NFC tags is in the car. Driving and smartphones don’t really mix, unless, perhaps, you’re piping music from your Android phone or using a dashcam app or SatNav software.
If you’ve got a good quality in-car app on your phone, however, using an NFC tag to launch it when you holster your phone in its windscreen or dashboard-mounted holder is a really good idea.
The HTC One comes with an app called Car pre-installed. HTC’s own in-car holder is designed to launch Car when the phone is slotted into place, but the same effect can be achieved using an NFC tag programmed to launch your chosen driving app.
You can do this in just a few steps with Trigger installed on your phone and an adhesive NFC tag placed on your dashboard mount. Begin by launching the app and tapping + to start a new trigger. From here, tap + again to select a trigger, choosing NFC, then name the trigger and tap + once more to create an action.
Here, choose Applications & Shortcuts > Open Application and browse for the app you want to launch via NFC. You will then see a message, explaining that the task you created is a toggle. This is basically telling you that to close the app you’ll need to tap your phone against the NFC tag again when you’re done.
Tap Done to proceed, and place your phone on the NFC tag to begin writing. Trigger will inform you when the tag has been written to, at which point you’ll be ready to use it to launch your car mode app!
Of course, you don’t have to be using a HTC phone to do this as there are many “car mode” apps available in the Play Store. In fact, you might prefer to use NFC to launch your music player or preferred Internet radio station app, or just launch straight into Google Maps.
NFC Tags At Work
Just like putting NFC tags in your living room, you should be careful about just how you position and place them in the workplace; again, take care with the colour choice as it isn’t worth upsetting any colleagues.
Probably the best way of approaching the use of NFC tags in the workplace is to get as many people involved as possible. This way, you can all use the tags, which might be used for activating wireless connectivity or sharing a digital business card.
NFC could even provide a quick way for guests to quickly configure access to your organization’s Internet connection, using a wireless access code saved to an NFC tag.
Out & About With NFC Tags
It isn’t unusual to find NFC tags placed by the doors of restaurants, bars and clubs, especially in big cities.
You might use these to check-in to the location in your favourite social app, for instance, or open a link to the business’ website. NFC can also be used to store credit card payment details, enabling you to swipe your phone across a payment point to settle tabs.
Meanwhile, NFC is fast becoming an alternative for hotel room smartkeys, and this can be setup for use on your phone with a temporary access code to the room. Expect this use to extend to automobile and domestic door locks in the near future.
Let Android & NFC Improve Your Life
There are many reasons for you to own an Android phone. If you’re happy enough just to make calls, social network and play games, then you’re probably not interested in using your phone to actually make your life simpler.
However, with NFC tags and the right apps, you can do just that. The suggestions above can help you to spend more time enjoying your phone and less time switching various settings on and off. Trigger is certainly the best app available for using NFC for automation, so spend some time playing with it and your NFC tags.
Share your NFC questions and experiences below – I’d especially like to hear from anyone with new and usual ways to use near-field communication!