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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?”
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, 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.
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, 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.
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 — 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“. 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.
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.
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
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 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.
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 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