Fun with NFC

I’ve been shopping around recently for a new phone (after the painful experience I had with the Galaxy S5 and some truly appalling battery life and rapid abandonment by Samsung for OS and security updates) and debating the features I actually want/would like. I was tempted to go budget/mid-range after experiencing a Sony Z3 Compact and realising that I didn’t always have to have the latest thing- but I quickly realised that the compromises were always frustrating- I wanted a big (1080, 5.5 inch or greater) screen, expandable storage (with preferably 32GB local storage) and NFC – not too much to ask I thought, but quickly found it was next to impossible to find this combination.

I tried to whittle my list down, and found that the one thing that was surprisingly difficult to get was NFC which I think is a real shame – whilst NFC hasn’t exactly set the world on fire (and there’s plenty of geolocation apps that fill in some of the NFC gaps) I still think it’s a relatively fun (and cheap) way of adding real world interactions with your phone- I’d recently bought a pack of ten NFC tags for £10 that allowed me to tag the plants in the greenhouse to pull up care instructions, and I’d also setup a quick and dirty bluetooth enabling tag in my car and a handy tag on my printer which would open it’s web admin page to confirm it’s settings (since my cheap, WiFi enabled printer has a retro two line LCD display which is painful to navigate!).

The one NFC project I haven’t gotten round to, but am still tempted to do, is a USB hard-drive inventory app. I envisaged it working something like:

  1. Autorun on the drive runs a DIR command and uploads the result to a webservice (such as SimpleNote- my directory listing isn’t private, but I guess I could upload it to OneNote/EverNote or similar to keep it private but accessible)
  2. NFC tags for each of the drives linked to the URL for the Web service.
  3. Profit! (or, at least be able to see what’s on a drive before you plug it in).

I’ve not come up with any other clever uses, but the geek inside of me loves things like these as they’re super easy to use and make the concept of smart homes that bit, well, smarter. If I had smart lights, I’d like the ability to tap the light switch (or, perhaps somewhere on my coffee table) to activate the light app. It’s a shame Fitbit’s API (last time I checked, which was a while ago) was largely read only, as I also envisaged checking in my water drinking habits using a quick API call (tap the glass with your phone to add a glass for example), or a wall chart that tracked progress against goals by tapping it (if you’re a fan of the “Don’t Break the Chain” habit forming method).  The one final project I had in mind (and I’ll clearly need to buy another pack for this!)  is NFC enabled board game pieces – inspecting a unit’s stats with a kick tap (I’m sure others have done something similar before).

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