Near Field Communication, or NFC, has been mentioned a few times here on Android.Appstorm, including a few articles by yours truly. The topic really fascinates and excites me because of the endless possibilities it affords us. About a year ago I wrote an article entitled Near Field Communication and the Future of Mobile, where I outlined what’s in store for NFC-enabled cell phones, of which Android has a few.
However, NFC isn’t only for phones. There are devices called NFC tags, and they can really shake up the way we do things.
As a quick refresher, NFC is the ability for 2 devices to send data to each other simply by touching. Right now, the word device implies a cell phone or tablet. You may have seen this commercial by Samsung where the data transfer is demonstrated in a real life situation.
However, there are little units called NFC Tags, which are becoming increasingly more popular. NFC Tags, sometimes referred to as smart tags, are embedded chips that can go in just about anything and transfer the data or instructions on them via NFC.
These tags offer similar functionality to what you’d find on phones, but instead of 2-way communication, it’s only one way, from the tag to the receiving device.
In my Future of NFC editorial, I talked about a lot of possibilities for the uses of NFC — hotel keys, park tickets, plane tickets, and of course the most popular use currently, payments. With NFC tags, you can expand those uses outward to just about any information from photos to business cards, or even functions like setting an alarm or turning off a data connection. As a matter of fact, there are some companies already using NFC tags for those uses.
MOO.com Business Cards
MOO.com has offered some pretty cool deals over the years, including free business cards using you Facebook information — I still use these to exchange personal information. Recently I read about NFC by MOO, an initiative where they started to offer business cards with NFC tags in them. The idea is simple: hold your business card up to an NFC-enabled cell phone, and boom! Your contact information is automatically added to the recipient’s contact book.
There are a ton of benefits to this of course, including the fact that you only need to carry one card on you, the person is less likely to lose your information, and it saves in paper and the cost of getting cards printed in the long-term. I can definitely see this being one of the first wide-spread uses of NFC; it’s easy and you’re not sending sensitive data, so the security risk is virtually non-existant.
Here’s another use I can see having a pretty high adoption rate. We’ve all likely seen ads and posters with QR Codes on them. You may have also seen the blog Pictures of People Scanning QR-codes, which satirically has no posts on it. See, QR Codes can be useful but are a bit clumsy. You need to have a barcode scanning app, you need to be in the right light, and you need to capture the QR Code properly. With NFC tags, you can get information off an ad just by holding your phone to it. Pictured above is an initiative by Samsung to offer free music and videos as a reward to people who bought the Galaxy S III, sending that information via NFC tags.
The examples listed above are just a small fraction of the uses for NFC tags. Imagine sending people a sample photo from your photography business or wedding, writing samples, your new song, or the link to a product you recommend. Image stores equipping everything they sell with NFC tags so that you can purchase an item from your phone and walk out of the store with it.
How Do I Use Them?
Have I hooked you? Do you now have a great idea for NFC tags? Do you need to know where to buy them and how to use them? Well, you’re in luck.
You can currently purchase your own NFC tags. Our fearless editor Rita has some and is currently using them [Ed Note: I bought some generic tags off eBay and they work wonderfully], and mine are in the mail! The Sony Xperia Smart Tags pictured above are available for purchase, and Samsung has its own called TecTiles. There are actually different NFC tag designs and brands out there, as a quick Google or Amazon search will show you!
So how exactly do you use them? Well, this will be slightly different with each tag, but among most of them the process seems to be:
- Download an Android App for the tags you buy, example: NFC Task Launcher
- Configure the tag’s action on the app
- Hold the tag to the phone so it gets programed
- Start using the tag.
There is no doubt in my mind that once NFC is widely adopted, it’s going to change the way we do things. It’s easy to use and makes sending information much more convenient. Using NFC tags, we can easily transfer contact information, ads, files, or even pseudo-automate certain tasks like turning bluetooth on when we get into our car or setting an alarm when we put our phone on the night stand. The best part about them is they are cheap (around $14 for a pack of 5) and really easy to set-up. So my only question is: what are you going to use them for?