NFC is here. The Nexus S has it. The Galaxy Nexus has it. Some Galaxy S IIs have it. The forthcoming Xperia products are going to have it. But the thing is, what are you going to do with it? This is the dilemma that hit me when I got my Galaxy Nexus. I had a Nexus S previously and just didn't use NFC, but I figured I must be missing out... so I started having a play.
The first thing I tried was hacking on a copy of Google Wallet, which worked great - to a point. I managed to get everything working and redeem my free $10 prepaid Google Card, but then, since i'm in the UK, that was the end of the fun - no way to top up.
The second thing I tried was beaming stuff between devices over NFC, which works well too - but that gets dull very quickly.
The third thing I tried (after a tip from Arne at theUnwired), was scanning my NFC enabled passport. For this I used NFC TagInfo and the PassportImageDecoder plugin. Nice, I can see a bunch of information about myself and even my passport picture! :D Again - this got boring quite rapidly!
Where NFC really starts to get interesting is with your own writable tags. Sony plan to exploit this on their new range with their SmartTags, but rather than paying £14.99 for 4 shiny ones, you can buy simple tags for less than a quid each. I bought 5 for £7.50 from nfc-supplies on Amazon, but they actually seem to be cheaper at RapidNFC (UK) or Chipwave (US). I'm currently using NFC Task Launcher to hook into my Tasker setup, and it's pretty cool. I'm just walking around the house looking for things I can automate with NFC tags.
Details of my setup after the break for news page readers...
This isn't as easy as it sounds, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the range is effectively 'touch on the tag', so you have to actively touch the tag to carry out the action. Secondly, NFC tags only have a 'touch' concept, they don't have an ability to see a tag both coming and going, they only have the arriving action. One issue where this manifested itself was where I was configuring a tag to turn on the car profile on my phone. I mounted the stick tag to the back of my Brodit mount, so when I slide it in, it activates various profile settings including enabling Bluetooth for the in car integration. Great, but when I take it out, it doesn't know i've left the car as it doesn't see that tag as 'going away'. The workaround in this instance was to detect the Bluetooth disconnection and switch out of car mode.
Another use I have found is that the range is just about good enough for me to stick a tag (antenna upwards) on the underneath of the top of the bedside table. This means that I can put the device down and it switches to 'night time' mode, pretty cool. I'm going to set it to wake out of that mode the first time the screen is turned on and the device is unlocked! :)
Finally, one other quirk of the tags - in Ice Cream Sandwich, the NFC events don't appear to be raised if the device is asleep / locked, which is a bit annoying... i'm going to see if I can 'patch that out'. :P
The main point of this post is that I would love to hear YOUR ideas for how to use the NFC abilities... what are you doing? What are you planning to do? Simply post in the comments below, or in the topic view if you prefer. Video demo of NFC Tag Launcher embedded below...