Exciting experiments in NFC technology!


I’ve been trying out something called NFC, which is very exciting if you’re a bit geeky (like me).

For everyone else, here’s a picture of a cute badger to keep you happy.Cute badger cub picture

OK, if you’re still here, NFC stands for Near Field Communication.  It’s a little bit like Bluetooth, except smaller.  And simpler.

My new Galaxy S3 mobile has NFC built-in, as do a few others, and it’s set to become a lot more widespread.  So I decided to find out what it can do, why I should care and how to get in on the action.

Turns out it’s simple, useful and very easy to set up.

Round whitel NFC tags
Two NFC tags

First, the basics: wave an NFC-enabled mobile phone over an NFC tag and it will do stuff – automatically.

Er, that’s it.

Except that the kind of “stuff” it can do automatically is actually pretty cool useful.  Last night, I set up three different NFC tags: a “home” tag, a “bed” tag and a “work” tag.

I stuck the “home” tag just inside the front door; if touched by my phone on the way out it will turn the ringer and alert volumes up to full, enable vibration alerts and toggle the wi-fi off.  So I’ll save wifi battery and be able to hear/feel my phone ring.  Come home, touch in and the wifi is back on.

The “bed” tag, next to my bed, switches off the vibrate and turns all the volumes down to minimum – except the alarm volume, which it fixes at 75%, ensuring an uninterrupted night’s sleep, but a working alarm in the morning.

The “work” tag connects the phone to work wifi network, turns vibration on and all annoying alert sounds off.

All by simply tapping a small, unobtrusive white disc. 🙂

The Lovely Melanie sighs and says “Why can’t you do the volume and the wifi yourself? Why do you need communion wafers to do it for you?

To which I say because:

  • I forget to turn my wifi off (wasting battery)
  • forget to turn my phone ringer off at work (annoying my workmates)
  • I forget to turn my phone down at night (scaring the hell out of both myself and the Lovely Melanie when it BUZZES! with an irrelevant Facebook update just after midnight).

And I can do all of these things in less than a second!

NFC tags can also be programmed to send you to websites, deliver contact details, flash up a message, launch apps – all kinds of simple but potentially useful actions (I’m tempted to set up a message on the “bed” tag reminding me to take my statins and anti-depressants).

And again, all you have to do is tap your phone on a certain spot.

I bought five tags from eBay for not-very-much-money-at-all and a great little app called NFC Task Launcher from the Android Store (sorry, Apple people, your phone doesn’t have NFC) – and look at me now – en route to the future! 🙂

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