18 Creative & Useful Ways To Use NFC Tags With Your Smartphone – 2014 Update

Smartphones with NFC
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been completely updated and for accuracy and with more uses.

NFC (Near Field Communication) has been getting more attention by the media after becoming a technology for mobile payments and creative marketing. Most of the recent mobile devices support NFC, but most people don’t really know about or use it. NFC has a very uncertain future.

Whether or not NFC becomes a widely adopted technology, it also needs to lose its image. Most people still think that NFC is only used for mobile payments and data transfer. That is not true!

There is more fun and practical stuff you can do with NFC: using NFC tags!

NFC tags can be small stickers, which contain a small unpowered NFC chip. Depending on how the tag is programmed, it can change various settings, launch apps and perform certain actions just by holding your phone close to it. To do this, the tag takes a small amount of power from the smartphone and sends its stored information onto it.

For the ones who haven’t programmed NFC tags before, we created a short video tutorial:

>> How to program an NFC tag

And if you are planning to get some for yourself, check out this decent starter kit.

Creative and practical ways to use NFC tags

Living-room

At home

Stick an NFC tag near your entrance door and let it do things, such as enabling your

Wi-Fi, turning off bluetooth and turning up the ringer volume. With the right app (Trigger, for example) you can program the tag to switch back the settings once you tap your phone on the tag a second time – disabling Wi-Fi, turning on bluetooth …

Car model

In the car

If you have a bluetooth compatible car radio or headset in your car, then an NFC tag will certainly make your life easier. Let it turn on your bluetooth so your smartphone automatically connects to your radio or headset and let it play your favorite playlist. Do you use your phone’s GPS to navigate? Use a tag to turn on Google Maps and disable turning of the screen while charging.

Gym

Working out in peace

To be completely focused and undisturbed while you are working out, just place a tag on your sports bag which turns on flight mode and launches your workout playlist. Using the “toggle” option, you can reverse the process by simply tapping the tag again when you’re done.

bedside table

On the bedside table – to fall asleep and to finally wake up in time

To sleep

Obviously, you don’t want to be waken up in the middle of the night. That is why you mute your phone or put it in flight mode every time you go to bed. Let a tag do that for you with just a tap. Do you own a dock for your phone? Let the tag launch a nightstand app to have a dimmed clock and other content displayed.

To wake up

Get out of bed in time by forcing yourself to go to the bathroom and scan a tag in order to stop your alarm. Isn’t that a great idea?! Try the app Puzzle Alarm Clock which features include NFC.

Computer table

Turn on your computer remotely

This one is a little bit more advanced but great. Imagine coming home, tapping an NFC tag at your entrance which automatically turns on your PC or laptop. You need a few apps to be able to do that:

Reddit user Captainmathmo created a quick step-by-step guide on how to remote start your computer.

key chain

On your set of keys

By having an NFC tag on your keychain, you can save battery while you’re on the go without the need of Wi-F, for examplei. Let the tag switch off your Wi-Fi and raise the ringer volume, for example. If you set the tag to “toggle”, it turns on your Wi-Fi and mutes your phone once you tap it again.

Laptop

Create a hotspot for your laptop or tablet

Place a tag on your notebook, tablet or on their cases and let it turn on your phone’s portable Wi-Fi hotspot. This can be very useful if you are on the go or working in the train and you need an internet connection to look something up quickly. Make sure to let the tag toggle your Wi-Fi hotspot, so you can turn it off again with a quick tap.

Subway

Save battery while being in the subway

Travelling in the subway mostly means that your phone is having a hard time looking for a cell signal which drains battery power. To prevent that, stick a tag somewhere at the stations you mostly use to get to work or on your bag (less weird) and let it turn on/off flight mode.

Lights

Turn on/off your lights at home

This one is for the more tech-savvy people. Daniel Friedman from Ninja Blocks posted a great way to control your lighting using On{X}, NFC tags, Philips Hue bulbs, and Ninja Blocks. Here’s hishow-to guide.

lego office

At the office

Put a tag on your desk to let it turn on your Wi-Fi, turn off sound and make it vibrate only. You can also take it to the next level and make it launch your to-do app and check into your workplace onFoursquare. Once you leave work, you can use a second tag sending your partner a quick message or mail that you’re leaving work and soon be home.

Timer

Set timers

Ever cooked an egg and forgot to look at the time? Use a tag next to your stove to activate your timer to always get the perfect cooked egg. Same idea can be used when you use the washing machine or similar things.

Wallet

In your wallet – as a business card

On business meetings, conferences and other events, networking is important. A lot of business cards switch hands but there’s always the risk of running out of cards. An NFC tag in your wallet or event badge can erase that risk by containing your “emergency business card” ready to be scanned by others.

It’s also a great idea to have physical business cards with a NFC chip inside. This chip could send a person to your company website or store the location of your store, for example.

Android Tasker

Start Tasker tasks

If you’re using Tasker to automate actions on your phone you can use NFC tags to trigger some of your tasks. Of course, Tasker can trigger its own tasks using certain data but what it can’t do, for example, is to differentiate between your bedroom and your kitchen. Using your location or the Wifi-SSID is not enough in that case. So, sometimes it might make sense to use NFC tags trigger tasks.

Android WiFi

Give others access to your Wi-Fi

Place an NFC tag in your living room or near the entrance, which gives your friends instant access to your Wi-Fi without revealing your password. The close proximity an NFC device needs to have with the tag makes it impossible for strangers to connect to it from outside the house.

lock door

Lock and unlock your door

Smart home technology has become a huge trend (think Nest) but, until now, many solutions are still quite pricey and need a rather complex installation. The smart door lock ‘Lockitron’ is one of the more affordable home automation systems. Besides being able to lock and unlock your door with an NFC tag or device you can also control the lock with your smartphone (iOS Android) from anywhere in the world. How’s that possible? Lockitron is connected to your home Wi-Fi. It also offers more features such as giving guest access to friends or getting notifications if a family member enters the house. You can pre-order the Lockitron for $179 on their website. Shipment is supposed to start in the coming weeks. NFC Ring

Control NFC devices with a ring

Getting tired of using your NFC enabled phone to control NFC compatible devices? Simply show them your finger! The Kickstarter project  ‘NFC Ring’, designed by John McLear, comes with two NFC inlays to store data or control other devices like the smart door lock Lockitron (see #15). One of the inlays is supposed to be for more sensible data or commands, like unlocking your door or phone, and the other one for more public data (Wi-Fi password, contact details …). The NFC Ring comes at a very reasonable base price of £22 ($36 / 26€) and shipping to all Kickstarter backers has just started. lecture hall

NFC tags in education

Schools and universities can use NFC tags to supply students with special “hidden” information. One great example for an educational use of NFC is the Central College Nottingham in the UK. On its campus, many NFC touch points are placed close to different objects to make it easier for foreign language students to learn English. Once they tap their phone on one of the touch points, they receive a name and a description. The college used QR codes before, but say that, due to the requirement of a QR scanning app, students hardly scanned them. Although it makes a lot of sense to use NFC tags in education, I admit that using them to learn a new language in your spare time does not really make sense. The traditional approach with Post-Its is much more convenient, to be honest. Street cafe

Own a business? Use NFC tags!

Bars, restaurants, hairdressers and similar businesses can use NFC tags to promote their business and increase customer satisfaction.

Lure potential customers to you by placing promotional posters in your neighborhood with NFC tags containing your location (don’t forget to make them “real-only” first). Once someone scans one, the Google Maps app will launch showing the location of your business. That’s just one out of many examples how you can use NFC in marketing.

Here’s a video explaining how to link a specific Google Maps to an NFC tag:

But don’t just stop there. Find relevant ways to satisfy your customers. For example, place tags on your products containing additional information (landing page, customer reviews, product video …) or use tags that check-in your customers on Foursquare.

Restaurants and bars could use NFC tag stickers on tables which send some sort of signal, saying that a customer needs a waiter or wants to have the bill. An easy and improvised way to make it happen is letting the tag send an email triggering a notification in the owner’s email app.

There are countless possibilities to use NFC tags. Just play around with the tags and find the settings that suit you best.

So what are you waiting for?

Get your own NFC tags!

How are you using NFC tags? Share your favorite tag settings with us in the comments!

___

Image courtesies of Jeremy LevineRajiv Vishwa24oranges.nlMIKI YoshihitoSam Stockman,Matt WestgateWill MerydithVox EfxRodrigo SoldonLoozrboyRob Stinnett and andrewarchy

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Marc is an online marketer, avid blogger and technology enthusiast. His focus is on Android, tech and gadget reviews. He likes spending time travelling and reading all about what's going on in the tech world. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.
  • anmolm97

    Amazing article!!

  • finneganirishman

    Great stuff. Another creative use I found is for Food Courts in malls…http://qfuse.com/blog/increase-efficiency-at-restaurants-and-fast-food-establishments-with-nfc/

    • Perv Bear

      To shut people up?

  • carrie

    Really an ultimate post. Blogads

  • Rovin

    They failed to mention that in order for guests to get access to your WiFi using the tag, they also need to have the NFC Tag Launcher app installed on their phone. If not, it will just link them to the Play Store to download the app.

  • Clausr

    @Rovin You could always just make a QR code for that and print it out – I know it’s not as cool as NFC, but it gets the job done without everyone needing to type the password.
    http://zxing.appspot.com/generator   – Choose Contents -> WiFi Network

  • zoran kovacic

    Does anyone knows how if it is possible to turn off a device using NFC
    tag?

  • zoran kovacic

    Ups:

    Does anyone know if it is possible to turn off a device using NFC tag?

    • sachin Chengappa

      it is possible with an app called tasker.

      • zoran kovacic

        Thanks, I will try it.

  • Proust

    Good article, but the whole NFC thing still seems a little bit worthless

    • Pak T

      It all depends what you do with it. A few of the commonly cited things you can do with an NFC tag do seem a bit overkill from just simply doing them manually. But for certain tasks, NFC tags can be very helpful, especially if you need to invoke several settings or apps to do that task (e.g. one swipe of a tag causes several settings to change and apps to run). Coupled with the Tasker app, you can use a NFC tag to do a TON of useful things and can do several things at once that might not otherwise all fit on a single tag (they have limited storage).

      Here is a good one not mentioned in the article. Do you have co-workers who darkens your doorway and stands there yakking at you for much longer than you really want and after a while you wish they would shut up and leave? You could have a NFC tag hidden on your desk somewhere and you could discretely place your phone on the tag. Have it activate a timer that waits a minute so it isn’t obvious you just triggered having the phone play a ring tone like there is an incoming call. “‘Excuse me Jim, but I have to take this call”. Or you can have your cell phone call your office phone.

      Or same thing but instead of ringing your phone, it instead sends an SOS text to another coworker to call you or come over and rescue you.

      I keep a tag on my work badge. That one triggers a Tasker task that silences the phone for 55 minutes. A good one for when you go to a meetings. Since I always forget to un-mute it after, this does it for me when the meeting should be over.

      Other tasks are kind of only limited by your own needs and imagination.

  • Simrat Sharma

    Hello friends

    NFC is a technology standard that is used to transfer data between two devices at close range (usually within 4 inches of one another). For example, two NFC-equipped smartphones could transfer a data file simply by touching the devices together.
    get more information at app creator

  • nfc tags

    Oh that’s great.Your work is so impressive and useful.Thanks for writing.nfctags

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  • http://receivetipstricks.com/ mrinal

    You can also use your mobile phone and NFC tags to turn on laptops from it’s sleep, using Wake up on Lan feature. However its hard to implement this. Google it. !!

  • Josh

    not for everyone but interesting to use as a guard patrol system: http://www.nlogix.ro/en/guard-patrol-nfc-control-tour

  • colinlee

    Here’s another classic use of NFC tags… put an NFC sticker tag on your clothes washer or dishwashing machine. Set it up so you may tap it to set a remote wash alarm on your smartphone.

    I expect this may become a built-in feature in high end washers soon, since wash times may vary based upon your settings.

    • http://www.thekevinwright.com/ thekevinwright

      I’ve been meaning to set it up for some time to do this in my house. Pretty sweet if you ask me. Soon our houses are gonna be covered in NFC tags lol

  • andrew krause

    on iphone u can actually do useful things like apple pay but u android people wouldnt no about that huh

    • Jhonny

      Uh..Google Wallet came out years ago, and it works just like Apple pay.

      • Rex Xu

        Google Wallet (at least in my opinion based on the information leaked about Apple Pay) is much more versatile than Apple Pay. In addition to the basic Tap-to-Pay functions, Google wallet can store all you rewards cards and gift cards. For example, setting up a CVS extra care card will bring up the bar code automatically when you walk into a CVS. Google will also send you a physical card to use in places where they do not accept NFC payments. And lastly, Apple Pay simply links you existing card to your phone. Google does the same thing, but also offers the ability to link a bank account, or store money into your Google Balance.

        And iPhones can ONLY use the NFC chip for Apple Pay (that means no transferring data and no NFC tags. In addition to Google Wallet, Android users can also use read/write tags, share contact info, etc. through NFC. I personally use FareBot to check my Clipper Card balance through NFC.

    • Anon

      Dude, android has had NFC payment for a while now, not to mention the fact that android NFC can do a whole lot more than JUST pay, which is all your iPhone 6 can do with NFC. Welcome to 2013, hater; iFAIL.

    • T

      Ha, you iPhone people are clueless. We’ve been using Google Wallet and ISIS for a long time. Apple hasn’t been innovative with cellular since the first gen iPhone. If I need advice about marketing old technology and passing it off as if it were new, I would definitely call Apple, but if I’m looking for old technology, I’ll just find an old Galaxy or Nexus at a pawnshop and save myself six or seven hundred dollars.

    • Kwadwo Kissiedu

      Andrew, I have met so many people like you who think their Iphone is the most advanced thing since the large Hadron collider. I don’t blame you! Apple has fooled a lot of people. But if I were you, i would read up about what Android has been doing for years and what Apple have not….join the innovators and not the marketers

    • Choel

      Hahaha. You apple people crack me up. Go back and graduate high school.

  • ss

    What happens if we lose the nfc ring that we are using to unlock our phones? How will we unlock the phone?

    • Scott Yancey

      You could always get an NFC chip implanted in your hand.

    • Kent

      You unlock your phone like normal.

  • Hittu Khandelwal

    can share battery using nfc ?

  • Murat Yıldız

    Thanks a lot for this wonderful article. On the other hand I am wondering if NFC can also be used as a proximity card for payment operation. At our work people use their ID card in order to pay the lunch price and I would like to let them to make payments with their NFC as ID card. Id it possible? (The payments is stored in our database for per person). Thanks in advance…

  • M.Yıldız

    I am wondering if NFC can also be used as a proximity card for payment operation. At our work people use their ID card in order to pay the lunch price and I would like to let them to make payments with their NFC as ID card. Id it possible? (The payments is stored in our database for per person). Thanks in advance…

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