What can you do with NFC tags?

Many of us have encountered Near Field Communication tags from the reader side, but few people have actually written an NFC tag. It’s actually staggering just how many things...

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Many of us have encountered Near Field Communication tags from the reader side, but few people have actually written an NFC tag. It’s actually staggering just how many things you can configure NFC tags to do. Everything from sending a text message, to enabling battery saver, or even sharing a YouTube video and so much more.

Perth-based NFC Infinite provided an array of NFC tags to allow me to try out their tags of different sizes. Those that follow the site regularly will know that one of the main reasons I switched to the Nokia Lumia 920 was it’s support for NFC. I’m a huge fan of the possibilities of the technology and to a large degree, before this I hadn’t experienced much of that possibility.

The important thing to know is that these NFC tags are re-writable so you can change the action that occurs when users tap the tag with their devices. This is especially important if you’re using then for a limited time campaign.

I have now attached one of the NFC tags stuck to my wallet, this has my contact card written to it. The great advantage of using an NFC over an app like Bump to transfer this information, is that the exchange doesn’t require both parties to have the same device or same app. As long as the devices both have NFC, just tap, accept and the contact is transferred wirelessly.

Let’s take a second to talk about that accept confirmation. It actually ruins what could be a seriously smooth user experience. You can understand the security reasons why the NFC standard implements this, the tag does essentially initiate code to run on your device. It’d be potentially very easy to point a browser to a malicious website and compromise your device, simply by tapping a NFC tag if you didn’t have this confirmation. That said I have seen JBL speakers enable audio playback via NFC without the prompt.

While there are a number of apps on Windows Phone that allow you to write NFC tags, NFC Infinite suggest the Nokia NFC Writer app. This app is divided into categories, contact, social, video+music, location+web, apps and setting. Each one of these come with plenty of options, so let’s break them out.

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Contact
Make a call, send email, send text message, share contact.

Social
Post a tweet, follow a user on twitter, foursquare check-in, like on Facebook, Google+  page.

Video+music
Share YouTube video, share YouTube channel, share music, share custom mix, toggle music playback.

Location+web
Display your location on a map, share address, share webpage.

Apps
Search WP Store, top apps, launch system apps, create nearspeak record (voice reads note when scanned), share a note.

Settings
Flight mode, battery saver, bluetooth, brightness, company apps, internet explorer, keyboard, office, ringtones + sounds, themes, updates, wifi, internet sharing.

That’s a massive list for a single app and some of these NFC tag types are seriously useful. One of my favourites are the Internet Sharing, or tethering setting. This setting takes a few levels to enable normally, but with an NFC tag, you tap your phone, accept the prompt and you’re directly at the internet sharing screen. From there, you simply enable it and your all set. Reverse the steps when you’re tethering session is complete to disable. In this case, it’s probably a decent idea to stick a tethering tag on your laptop for those coffee shop visits.

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So now you know what’s possible, check out the gallery below to see how it all works. NFC tags come in different sizes and that’s not just about the physical dimensions of the tag, it also means the larger tags can hold more data. Some types of the tags above will require the data size of the larger tags.

NFC Infinite also offer customized NFC tags, the photos below demonstrate how a Facebook Like gate works. Essentially it’s a piece of cardboard containing a large NFC tag that you would position at the entrance of your store, your counter or frankly anywhere you like. It explains to customers who aren’t familiar with NFC what they need to do ‘tap your NFC device here’ and it takes the user to their Facebook Page. As Facebook advertisers will tell you, once you can get someone to like your page, they are unlikely to unlike you. This means you can continue to promote deals etc to your fans.

One issue with NFC is that in it’s current incarnation, you can’t deep link to apps. You can configure apps to launch, you can configure web pages to load, but you can’t open an app and perform an action. One example of this would be opening the Facebook app, taking the user to your Page and liking that page with a single tap. Naturally there needs to be fall backs like taking them to the app in the store if it isn’t installed.

Overall reading and writing NFC tags is great fun and has some massive business potential. Overall I just love the efficiency of it all, for tasks that you do regularly like exchange details with new contacts or enabling/disabling mobile settings, it’s a dramatic improvement over traditional ways of accomplishing these types of tasks. It’s times like this that make my decision to move away from the iPhone reinforced, given Apple are still not including NFC in their phones despite Windows Phone and Android both supporting it.

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You can get more information about NFC tags, particularly the ones I used for this post at http://nfcinfinite.com/

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NFC

This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn't seeking credit.