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

Smartphones with NFC

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.

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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:

[su_button url=”” target=”blank” style=”flat” background=”#00aeef” size=”5″ center=”yes” radius=”0″]How to program an NFC tag[/su_button]

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

Creative and practical ways to use NFC tags

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 …

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 his how-to guide.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Westgate, Will MerydithVox EfxRodrigo SoldonLoozrboyRob Stinnett and andrewarchy

Marc Knoll

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.
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