Tap your phone’s potential

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Enter NFC: You can mirror content from your smartphone to your HDTV

Make your Android device smarter using a little-known technology called NFC.

NFC stands for near-field communication, a short-range wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10cm distance.

In certain countries, NFC has already been used to turn smartphones with embedded NFC chips, into mobile wallets.

Instead of using cash or credit/debit cards, the part of the smartphone where the NFC chip is located (usually on the back cover or in the battery) is tapped on the scanner for the transaction to be charged to the user’s account.

Some countries have trialled the usage of NFC as a means of payment for public transportation too. Think of NFC, as using your smartphone as a Touch ‘n Go card, and you’ll get the picture.

Tag it

There are more and more NFC-enabled Android smartphones landing on our shores. While the use of it here hasn’t reached the same level as some other countries, it is not without its usefulness.

The most publicised use of NFC is the ability to transfer files at breakneck speed by just bumping two smartphones against each other.

While it’s impressive, the true potential of this technology lies in an external accessory known as an NFC tag.

NFC tags are basically stickers that are able to store information inside them. With the aid of any NFC app, which can be found in abundance in the Google Play Store, users can design a set of actions for their device to execute and then save the commands on the tags.

Whenever an NFC-enabled device is tapped on the tag, it will execute the commands.

The good news is that the tags don’t cost a bomb. Even better news is that as long as you don’t select to permanently lock the tag, you can always rewrite the tags, so they’re pretty good value for money.

A popular app for customising tags is NFC Task Launcher by Tagstand (bit.ly/GMNn32). Available for free in the Play Store, the app allows users to include two different sets of actions in one tag. For example, tapping it the first time will enable a feature, and tapping it again will disable it.

There are many practical uses for NFC tags. We most commonly use it in our cars. Previously, we used to have to go through the hassle of manually switching on our smartphone’s Bluetooth each time we entered our car. Now, it can be done easily just by tapping our gadget on an NFC sticker that we have pasted on the dashboard.

Besides Bluetooth, we have also set it to switch off WiFi, make the ringtone louder, and screen brighter. Tapping it again once we have reached the destination will reverse all the actions that were enabled earlier.

Sleep on it

While it is not advisable to have a mobile phone by your bedside due to the radiation it is said to emit, most people will still stubbornly insist on having it around as it doubles as an alarm clock.

We are guilty of this unhealthy practice, but have an NFC tag pasted beside our beds to hopefully mitigate the adverse effects. The tag is set to switch the phone to flight mode, as well as to dim the screen to the lowest brightness level. When it’s time to rise and shine, the tag will re-enable cellular data and increase the screen brightness.

An interesting way to utilise the tag is by placing one on home appliances which require a specified amount of time to complete, such as a washing machine. If you’re as absent-minded as us, once you start the machine, you can tap your Android on the tag to automatically start the timer so that you won’t forget about collecting your laundry.

Sharing WiFi

Another use for NFC, which will be more practical once more smartphones have it, is the marketing possibilities it opens up. Instead of using QR codes, businesses can require their customers to just tap on an NFC tag to get more information about a promotion or their business.

Notice how most eateries offer free WiFi, but require a password to be entered? NFC tags have the capability to store wireless network settings, so all the consumers need to do is tap their devices on the tag and it will automatically connect to a wireless network, despite requiring a password.

This benefits the shop owners because customers will have to be physically present to connect to the WiFi, thus preventing non-customers from “stealing” their wireless connection.

This can also be used at home or the office when you want to allow guests to use the WiFi but don’t want them to know the password.The tags can do more than just changing settings.

Users can prepare a text message and write it on the tag. Whenever your phone taps the tag, it will automatically send the text message direct to your desired recipient.

Very useful for those of you who usually report to your other half, or parents whenever leaving from work or school.

For those who aren’t willing to spend or have no means of acquiring NFC tags, head to the Play Store and download AnyTAG NFC launcher by XtraSEC (bit.ly/ZEsf8l). Developed by Malaysians, this app enables NFC smartphones to detect any cards or devices that have NFC chips in them and associates an action with that device.

This means that us users won’t have to specifically use NFC tags. We can make use of everyday cards around us, such as our MyKad and Touch ‘n Go.

The good thing is that it only remembers the chip’s ID and associates the desired actions with it, so it doesn’t overwrite anything on the chip.

So don’t worry about the card’s chip getting messed up.

For those who are keen to make use of the NFC technology for the first time, do take note that it does not work when your Android’s screen is locked.

That means that you will have to first unlock your device’s screen before attempting to connect with another NFC device or tag.

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Science Technology , Android; NFC;


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