Instructables
Picture of Easy Phone Automation with NFC Tags
More and more smart phones are coming out with NFC capability. But what does that mean for you? A few things: the ability to send data over a very small distance to another phone, the ability to use your phone as a wallet, and the ability to read and write NFC 'tags'.

NFC stands for 'Near Field Communication' and is more or less an RFID (think of the anti-theft tags on clothing) that can engage in two way communication. Some neat things about NFC is that the tags are unpowered and don't have to make contact with the reader to work (though they must be very close).

This instructable will show some ways I've made my mobile life simpler by using NFC tags to automate some functions on my phone. My hope is that you will find them useful or that you will come up with your own ideas. Cool factor aside NFC tags can be very useful and practical.

Sorry apple fanboys, the NFC party is Android only for now. I'd bet money you'll see it in the iPhone 5 though.
 
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Step 1: What You'll Need

Getting started with NFC tags for phone automation is easy and pretty cheap.

You will need:
*There are a few different type of NFC tags. To be on the safe side get NDEF preformatted tags, unless you know your phone works with unformatted tags. Also, type 2 tags will work with future iterations of NFC, so consider those. Finally, check the capacity of the tags. Simple tasks require little memory, but swtich tags with multiple tasks can require a more than the 48 bytes available on some tags.

Step 2: The Basic Idea

It works like this: With NFC Task Launcher installed you can place your unlocked phone within range of a programmed tag an your phone read it and affect the changes written to the tag.

The app can write several different types of tags. In this instructable we'll focus on three, they are:
  • Task tags executes a single set of tasks, like turn on wifi and/or mute the volume, each time the tag is read.
  • Switch tags switch between two sets of tasks each time the tag is read.
  • Uri tags can create an outgoing message to be sent

Some things to consider:
  • NFC Task Launcher can't do everything imaginable, but does have a wide feature set
  • NFC tags can be read through thin materials, like wood or plastic
  • Always test the readability before sticking a tag underneath/behind something
  • Metal interferes with NFC tags, so if you are putting a tag on metal, make sure you get the right kind of tag

So let's start making your life easier! Here are some of the ways I've used my NFC tags. Comment on ways you have used them, or ideas you have.

Step 3: Coming Home & Leaving Home

The Effect: When I come home I want wifi turned on and my phone to connect to my home network, and to turn off the phone's vibrate function. When I leave home I want my wifi turned off and vibrate turned on.

Wifi consumes battery, so if I'm not using it I want it off. Also, vibration is great when I'm out and my phone is in my pocket. At home it just rattles the table and makes my phone dance.

The Tag: I wrote this tag as a switch tag so it will swap between the two states. They are:
  1. Coming Home- Turn on wifi, connect to 'Dr.Strangelove' (My home network) and provide the network key (if you don't already have it), turn off vibration
  2. Leaving Home- Turn off wifi, turn on vibration
The Placement: I wanted this tag to be hidden in a convenient place in my doorway, so I stuck it on the inside of the light switch plate. When I come/leave home I unlock my phone and touch it to the switch plate.

Step 4: Bluetooth on the Go

The Effect: My wife has a fancy Bluetooth headset, but doesn't like to wear it when she's not using it. This tag toggles Bluetooth so my wife can turn her Bluetooth on and off while keeping her eyes on the road.

The Tag: This is a simple task tag that uses toggle Bluetooth. Toggle switches from off to on or on to off, depending on the phone's current state.

The Placement: I stuck the tag on the backside of the door of a compartment on the dash. It is out of sight but well within arm's reach.

Step 5: Bed Time

The Effect: I own my phone, it doesn't own me. So, when I go to bed I don't was to be disturbed. This tag quiets the ring and notification tones and ensuring my alarm is turned up when I go to bed. When I get up it turns the ring and notification tones back up.

The Tag: I used a switch tag for this application. The two tasks are:
  1. Goto Bed- Ring tone to 1, notification tone to 1, alarm to 6
  2. Get Up- Ring tone to 8, notification tone to 6.

The Placement: I placed the tag on the bottom of my nightstand table. I put it on the far side of the table so I couldn't accidentally activate the tag when putting mu phone down.

Step 6: On My Way Home

The Effect: My wife carpools to and from work and has to wait for people sometimes. When she gets to her car at the park and ride she sends me a text to let me know she'll be home in about 20 minutes so I can get dinner on the table. This tag writes the text message and addresses it to my number. All she has to do is scan the tag and hit send.

The Tag: I used an Uri tag for this that readies the message 'I'm on my way home!'

The Placement: I used a 'laundry token' tag that I mounted in an acrylic key fob I made. That way she can scan it while pulling into the park and ride.
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DX MRINAL9 months ago

NFC task launcher goes by the name of Trigger in play store now which is infact a free download now.

My favorite NFC app is Puzzel alarm clock, for Disabling alarm clock with an NFC tag. The best way to set reminder or wake in the morning is by placing the tags far from your bed.So every morning the alarm will turn ON, you will have to get up from your bed to turn it OFF.

For more NFC how to you can check out my blog NFC MADE EASY.

middleman1211 months ago
Cynical, thanks for the post! I didn't realize the tags could be read under plastic, so will hide the one I'm planning for the car. Also, really liked the idea of the automated message heading home, I like to let my better half know when I'm on my way.
Joe
thehumble11 year ago
I know that Samsung uses the same NFC standard for most operations but does use pee peer to peer WiFi instead if Bluetooth for their beam function.

I have a nexus 4 and am going to get a pack of tokens and am looking around for ideas. These look nice as does a swap in my daughters' room so I can drop the brightness when putting them to bed.

I also saw a case with NFC that switches it either to vibe or loud. I'll keep looking because I'm sure there are a few more brilliant ones out there. Thanks again.
thault2 years ago
Lol so where's the money because the iPhone 5 didn't have NFC. It didn't have much at all really. Now I'm rolling the galaxy s3 so I can use these tags : D
I was very big on QR Codes but I think I've fallen for NFC tags now. I think there is a time and place for both though.

Thanks so much for the tutorial.
CandyLV2 years ago
Extremely Useful! Thanks a lot!
ecks512 years ago
Two things:

1) Why the petty 'fanboys' jab?

2) NFC will not be included in any iOS device.
CYNICALifornia (author)  ecks512 years ago
1) It was meant to be playful, not pretty. If you see malice in the comment there's not much I can do for you.

2) I'm sorry to hear that, if it is true. Where did you get that info?
1) I don't think 'Fanboy' was ever a term meant to be used as a joke. A difference of opinions.

2) Until recently there had been no indication that Apple had much interest in it, but rumors have picked up about prototype iOS devices sporting NFC. No telling if it'll make it into the next gen. iPhone. If it does I just hope there's an easy way to disable it.
amason92 years ago
Newer Blackberries come with NFC - that said they're likely to go bankrupt soon so that might not matter.
CYNICALifornia (author)  amason92 years ago
BB definitely had their day. Truth be told, I helped my inlaws make the jump from their BB's to the Evo LTE.
BB's aren't doing all that bad, youth culture is starting to be a huge market for them because of BB messenger being free. No, I'm certanly an Android fan and got a few of my fam to switch from BB & Apple so far.

P.S. Thanks for the ideas, I'm tempted to use two tags for on/off functions (if it's possible) in case I forget what my phone's set to (very likely to happen). So have one outside my bedroom to turn on silent as I walk in and one as I exit to turn up the volume..
CYNICALifornia (author)  DreamingSheep2 years ago
It's totally possible. I'm just keen on efficiency and try to use a few tags as possible.
ethan17012 years ago
Looks like samsung are offering exactly this on the new S3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8Pbhgl-_LmA
Glad to see it can easily be done with any NFC enabled phone!
CYNICALifornia (author)  ethan17012 years ago
Yeah, when I heard about Sammy's brand new TechTiles it made me giggle just a little, since I had already put this up.

I know their 'tiles' are nothing more than branded NFC tags, but I am curious if their app plays nice with NFC Task Launcher.
dkelley12 years ago
My phone is NFC challenged. :-( However I have been able to accomplish this using 'Locale' for Android http://www.twofortyfouram.com/ Also perfect app for times when you aren't near tags.
Marno12 years ago
What kind of e-reader do you have ?
CYNICALifornia (author)  Marno12 years ago
Kindle Touch. Currently reading: http://www.engineerguy.com/elements/index.htm
angieb10082 years ago
This is very cool but I can do all these things on my Droid Bionic phone with Llama. My husband and daughter got their phones after me so theirs has a trigger program already built in to do all the things you are are doing with the tags.
CYNICALifornia (author)  angieb10082 years ago
Llama looks very cool. I especially like that it doesn't suck down power using GPS.

For my purposes I think the NFC tags are better suited, but it is neat to see all the different solutions developers have come up with so solve the problems we face.
laekrits2 years ago
great stuff! new and interesting ways to get our eyes off the screens and back up into our surroundings.. especially during transitions, when we should have other things on our minds (o:
jeffeb32 years ago
Glympse is a great program that sends your location to someone for a set amount of time (like 45 mins). I use it to let my wife know where I am on my commute.
CYNICALifornia (author)  jeffeb32 years ago
I've heard of it but haven't tried it out yet. Thanks for the tip.
rimar20002 years ago
This is very a useful info, thanks for sharing.