back to article You thought NFC tags were Not For Consumers? Well, they're in Maplin's

High street retailer Maplin will be stocking NFC tags, surely demonstrating that the technology is mainstream even if no one is quite sure what it's for. The tags, which  come from RapidNFC, are supplied in packs of twelve which retail at £9.99. That's a £1.70 premium on the manufacturers price of £8.29 but the manufacturer …

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Anonymous Coward

Apple's ongoing disdain for the technology

what a week - I agree with... Apple?!

(yeah, I know, I'm an idiot, and people at Apple are idiots), nfc is a wonderful technology, only that i's underused. And it's a f... understatement :)

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Using NFC Task Launcher and Tasker on Android, I have tags at work, home and in the car. I use them for profiles. At work the phone is set to vibrate, no WiFi. In the car it sends auto reply text to inform people I'm in the car and won't reply to sms. At home connects to home WiFi, etc.

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Happy

What a fine idea.

Thank you. I shall steal it immediately!

GJC

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Good idea

There are location-based apps that do the same sort of thing, but who the hell walks around with their GPS on all the time?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good idea

Some of them don't use gps for the location; they use nearby ssid, which base-station the phone can see etc.

Let's be honest 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate.

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JDX
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So that saves you about 5s each time, from manually setting the profile?

I genuinely applaud the nerdiness, but not so sure it really solves a problem.

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It also means that he doesn't have to remember to change his phone every time he changes location. Esp. the car as I assume he has a phone holder/charger in the car

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Anonymous Coward

Having found that half-decent in-car holders for Nokia's are thin on the ground, I thought of using an NFC tag on a cheapo one to turn wifi off and car mode on rather than fumbling for the controls when I start the morning commute.

alternatively one near front door to turn wifi off on the way out and another one to turn wifi on when I get in.

but I've yet to come up with an absolute must-have use of an nfc tag.

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I like the in-car idea to auto-reply to texts, but tell me this: Do you have to turn off this "in car" mode by tapping on a different NFC tag, or is the phone aware that is no longer near the car tag and therefore automatically turns off?

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Anonymous Coward

In the car it sends auto reply text to inform people I'm in the car

taking this a stage further they should embed NFC tags into seats/tables on trains so when the phone detects them it automatically goes through your contacts list and sends an "I'm on the train!" message to everyone you know.

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Yes, you have to tap another tag. So I have one attached to the in car holder, one stuck to my monitor at work, and one in my wallet for home.

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As there are no in built profiles with Android (lots of 3rd party apps), using Tasker and NFC Task Launcher is the quickest way of putting the phone in the mode I want, with a simple wave of the phone at the tag

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Anonymous Coward

You do know that marvellous scheme is patented by my fine clients do you?

Can't remember whether it's Apple or MS, why would I care, as long as they pay.

I'll be in touch. Touch is better than NFC anyway for most things (but don't tell my clients I said that).

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Isn't that what convenience is about?

@JDX

I have Sony NFC tags dotted around, The one on my desk switches my ringtone from silent to vibrate, send an auto text to my Mrs, turns off WiFi, switches on Bluetooth, connects to my headset and starts my MP3 app. That's a heck of a lot of faffing about that I'm saved from as I'm trying to get away from my desk. One tap on the corner of my desk and I'm good to go.

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Alert

You only have to touch another tag in the default Android configuration. If you are happy to install a custom ROM then there's a modification from XDA-Developers that allows removal detection.

http://www.nfcbrief.com/2013/03/modification-adds-nfc-tag-removal.html

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Re: 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate

Does for me. Most days the difference between "at work", "in bed", or "relaxing in front of the telly" is a matter of perhaps 5 metres.

I'm hoping these will work when stuck underneath wireless charging mats, for the perfect combination.

GJC

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Re: Good idea

>> Let's be honest 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate

Maybe you don't want the phone on vibrate when you are waiting outside for the bus (we don't all drive).

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Anonymous Coward

I do the same

Xperia phones come with an app that does the same stuff. I pity Apple owners and their 2010 feature-set.

Perhaps we should club together and collect £200 so they can buy a superior Nexus4 to replace their £800 inferior phone.

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My LG Android phone came with one free tag and has the same profile setting idea. The idea is to have tags for Living Room, Bedroom, Car, Office/Desk, etc. with settings for alarms, sound volume, ring or vibrate, bluetooth handsfree, etc. - but they should have supplied more than one tag!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate @Geoff Campbell

>Most days the difference between "at work", "in bed", or "relaxing in front of the telly" is a matter of perhaps 5 metres.

Intriguing, by any chance is your bedroom window framed with red and blue flourescent lights?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good idea

"we don't all drive"

I usually walk to work, this has no bearing on whether my phone is on silent or not; that's governed by whether or not I was on-call that night.

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@DragonLord 10:14

It also means that he doesn't have to remember to change his phone every time he changes location. Esp. the car as I assume he has a phone holder/charger in the car

He still has to remember to change his phone or tap a different tag when he leaves his car. This is a geek solution, no average person is going to stick NFC tags in their car and think this is a good idea.

It would be FAR a better solution if his car had Bluetooth and his phone could auto detect it and go into car mode when it detects the car bluetooth (along with sending music through the speakers and maybe reading his texts to him, etc.) and leave car mode when it no longer detects his car's Bluetooth.

I assume buying something you could plug into your cigarette lighter to emit Bluetooth to allow this to work in an older car (minus the working with your car's audio, of course) would be quite inexpensive, as well as being a far better solution than what this guy came up with. It would drain your battery when you aren't in your car (unless it was wired into the ignition so it only operates when your car does) but it would probably take years for something using Bluetooth 4LE to drain a car battery.

Like I always say, NFC is a solution looking for a problem. And there are always better solutions to the problems it "solves".

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Angel

Re: What a fine idea.

Steal it.

Patent it.

Sue your ass off.

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Re: @DragonLord 10:14

I have a bluetooth device that is powered from the car's cigarette lighter, and plugs into the car's audio (via the AUX socket). Switches to car mode and pipes audio through the car's speakers in one device. However, it sometimes picks up the bluetooth when I'm in the house, so it's not perfect. I think it was about £10.

However, I'm tempted by the NFC tags just to see what I could do with them. They potentially have the feature of being a lot more precise.

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Re: @DougS

That's trivially easy, using the same NFC Task Switcher program that is used for detecting and reacting to the NFC tags. It can trigger an event on connection/disconnection of a named Bluetooth device.

So I get the best of both worlds - NFC tags in the two offices I work in regularly, one by the bed, plus events triggered by the car Bluetooth system, and also by time, at 7am.

GJC

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or you can goto ebay and get 10 for a £1, free delivery.

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Alert

@ Oli 1 -

>

or you can goto ebay and get 10 for a £1, free delivery.

<

Here I have to chip in and defend the high street.

True: Almost everything that you can buy in any high street store is cheaper on ebay, especially when technology related.

The advantages of the ebay-traders are, of course, the traditional advantages of mail-order and catalogue businesses: No premium rents to pay, less lighting, heating, cleaning, much less staff (and that at a lower rate), and last but not at all least: No "customer" caused shrinkage. All this a brick shop has to put up with, but there's more. Lots of the electronics on ebay are from china, which means that even the lower costs for warehousing can be cut by 50% again.

A big advantage of a shop is the quality. Surely this is stupid, because isn't the stock the same? Mainly yes, it's the same stuff from the same factory. But the quality control of the reseller will spot batch faults and report them to the maker to achieve a consistent level of quality. A substantial amount of cheap traders buy up reject or B-rated stock to sell on ebay. While this doesn't necessarily mean that you get rubbish, your chance is much higher and to return it and have it exchanged is often over-proportionally time-consuming and cumbersome, whereas you can just go back and have it swapped there and then if you buy from a high-street store. A good share of them will even help you to solve the problems that you had with the item, which, in some cases, isn't actually the item's fault, but a misunderstanding what it would do ("WiFi range extenders" don't actually extend the range of your WiFi, for example) and suggest a remedy. This is naturally because they want to sell something to you, but it helps you anyway.

So, for example: You want to buy a mobile/ cell phone case. The thing costs £12.99 on the high street and £1.49 on ebay. It cost the manufacturer about 30p to make it, and 30% of his production are rejects, because the stiching isn't quite even, the colour is patchy or the cutout for the camera is not quite in the right place. These can either be binned or sold to a trader who isn't that picky.

Now, if you find that your new 'phone case is less than perfect while you try it on in CPW or phones4U, you hand it back to the sales person and get it swapped for another one until you're happy or you have your money back. If you buy that from 'heavenlyblissebayshop', it's not worth complaining; a return would take 12 weeks for a round trip and cost you as much postage as ordering new and the replacement one is not necessarily better.

Don't get me wrong, I order stuff from Shenzhen myself. But I'll be aware that it's a gamble on the quality, whether it turns up at all and how long it might take. If I want it now and perfect, the premium that I have to pay at a real counter is worth it.

To me. Your mileage opinion might vary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Oli 1 -

My local Maplin shop wants £17 a time for "sealed" lead acid batteries with their own brand name. No obvious indication how long they had sat on the shelf getting sulphated. The same price as Maplin online (with free postage).

An eBay dealer was selling a similar apparently unbranded "compatible item" for £10 - but you had to spend over £25 to get free postage.

Farnell online sold me two Yaesu branded for £10.75 each with free next day delivery.

The Maplin business model just doesn't work any longer for me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Oli 1 -

Oops! Farnel £10.75 plus vat - still a lot cheaper than Maplin and branded stock.

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Re: @ Oli 1 -

Thank you for that - I need to replace the batteries in my UPS units!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: China return round trip

In my experience if you politely tell them you're not satisfied they'll often just send out another one for free.

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Anonymous Coward

I feel that I should tinker around with NFC, I do a bit of hobbyist electronics with various bits and pieces including rpi and Arduino. The thing is, I just can't think of anything useful to do with them - anyone got any ideas?

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Anonymous Coward

How 'near field' do these things need to be in order to work? I wonder whether any dodgy crims have thought about creating a NFC receiver (like you get at the till) that is sensitive enough that you could just wander around a packed tube station (or similar), touching it against the wallets in people's back pockets, slurping £10 a time from them? I expect so...

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Anonymous Coward

How would they get money from someone else's card? The card doesn't carry the currency.

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About 2cm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "slurping"

Sir/madam, you need to read about how credit card payments work. Specifically, you should look up "merchant account".

What you suggest is not possible. These things have an audit trail.

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VAT

Maplin include the VAT, RapidNFC don't, so it's nearer a fourpence difference when you account for that.

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Anonymous Coward

my first thought is that they'll make a great plot device in some episode of "Burn Notice", lets face it NFC activated C4 would be cool :)

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Silver badge
Stop

Cool?

NFC activated C4 would be cool

You really want to get to within 10cm of the C4 to activate it? A little 'hot' for my taste

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Anonymous Coward

I wanted to use NFC to clone my access card for when I forget it.

A quick google suggested android won't let you do that.

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Gold badge

Key finder?

If you stuck one to the TV remote, or your keys, or whatever, could you write an app to help you find it?

I presume the tag doesn't know where it is but if there was any indication of range then you could use your phone as a sniffer. Can anyone with a clue shoot this down before I spend too much time speculating? TIA.

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Re: Key finder?

Won't work, needs inductive power to activate the tag. No NFC device nearby = no power to power up the tag.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Key finder?

yes, but ONLY if they're UHF tags as I've personally demoed a trivial UHF read/radar range of around 12 metres but the 868/900MHz UHF isn't NFC. NFC is unfortunately (or fortunately) 13.56MHz which gives you a few centimetres of read-range/radar.

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Re: Key finder?

Sure. Your phone needs to be within 2cm of it.

Or buy a high powered scanner about the size of a suitcase to be able to get a range of several meters.

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Proof of ownership hack (superglue the chip in a hard to remove location on valuable property and make a note of the unique numbers)

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Anonymous Coward

NFC: No Fscking Chance

Thanks for the reminder, I got a new bank card a few days ago. Must cut the antenna strip.

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Go

No idea if this would work but.......

I may be missing the ability of NFC tags but going back to a previous topic of robo mowers. What if you stuck(buried just below surface) NFC's all over your lawn and logged the location of each tag. You could use either gps although domestic gps is probably not accurate enough or just manually mow the lawn once so the mower knows which tags are near edges or middle of the lawn etc.

Once the mower knows which tags are where relative to your lawn area, it will always know where it is. Joining the NFC 'dots' on the lawn, the mower could navigate its way back to any point for charging, emptying etc.

Just a thought

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Silver badge

Re: No idea if this would work but.......

And when the wife complains about the state of the lawn, blame it on the moles. ("Moles lay their mounds out in perfect grids, do they now, dear?")

But if the tags will last in the ground (protected by a plastic bag?), then this idea has legs. Putting them round the edges would suffice: carry on in a straight line till you hit a tag. The software can make an estimate of when the next tag should show up; and if its not found on schedule it can stop (or sound a siren and plough on to Claire's house).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No idea if this would work but.......

Good idea but equally suitable for such an application would be a simple wire or small magnets.

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Joke

Rural communications

Often in yokel country where I reside, it can be a bit tricky to get decent phone signals, so anything that improves communications when near fields could be a boon for farmers.

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