For the smart home that has almost everything, NFC tags are a great way of taking things to the next level.
But what exactly are they? They’re little stickers that can be placed around the house. When tapped with your iPhone or Android device, they’ll instruct your phone to perform whatever function you’ve preprogrammed it to do.
One function per sticker may sound a bit underwhelming, but they’re inexpensive and available in huge packs. From setting timers to creating a guest WiFi login, here are a few ideas to try to add to your smart home.
What can I use NFC tags for around the home?
If you’ve just got a load and are unsure of what to do with them, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some genius functions you may not have thought of.
(This piece won’t go into how to set them up on your phone, but if you need help, this guide from IFTTT should get you started.)
1. Control the lights in every room
Everyone knows that with the best smart light bulbs you can power on, change the color and adjust the brightness of your lighting via an app or with your voice.But, did you know, if you have a setting you really like, you can automate it via an NFC tag? Program the perfect conditions and then tap your phone against it to set your lighting just so.
So you could have one on your bedside table to turn off the lights (possibly combined with the playing of a sleep playlist if that’s your thing), one near your sofa to set the mood for movie night, and one in the office to get the right feel for productivity.
2. Make time to focus
The constant dinging of notifications can be distracting, and sometimes you just need to focus. How about setting up an NFC tag on your desk that immediately puts your phone into do not disturb mode?
3. Give your record collection the 21st century touch
Got a vinyl collection that’s gathering dust in your listening room in the age of Spotify and Apple Music? You can give these beautiful records a digital touch by programming an NFC tag with a link to each album and sticking them on to the cover, as shown in this marvelous video below.
4. Your favourite recipes on tap
If you’ve got a few brilliant but complicated recipes that you can’t quite remember, you can set up an NFC link for quick access.
Just stick one in the kitchen programmed with a link to the recipe, tap it and the page will immediately load on your phone — whether text or video. A new idea to make your smart kitchen even smarter.
5. Timers on tap
Another handy function of NFC stickers is the ability to set phone timers.
Only one per tag, of course, but it can still be handy all the same. Perhaps a 45-minute timer next to your tumble drier in your laundry room to know when it’s time to finish the laundry, or a 15-minute timer on your desk for a spell of intense focus.
You could even put a two-minute timer tag on your bathroom mirror to ensure you brush your teeth for the right about of time!
6. Track your water intake
iPhone owners may know that Apple Health lets you track the amount of water you drink. But without any sensors, you have to enter it manually, which can be a pain.
Why not add an NFC tag underneath your water bottle? Program it to add a glass of water to Apple Health when tapped, and then activate it every time you finish your drink.
7. Plot your way home in the car
NFC tags aren’t just for the home! There are two very handy functions you can bind to stickers discretely placed in your car.
The first is for mapping. Set up an NFC tag to plot a route home in Google Maps, and wherever you end up, you’ll be able to get directions home with a quick tap of the phone.
And for more familiar routes, you can set up another NFC tag to send a text to your partner telling them you’re on your way home.
8. "Dinner time!"
On a similar note to that last bonus use, the ability to automatically send messages to people is especially handy if you live in a large household and need to get a mass message out quickly.
One example: calling people to dinner. NFC tags can automate a text message to everyone in your house telling them that food is ready and it’s time to get stuck in.
9. Connect guests to WiFi
If you’ve got a long, complicated WiFi password — or, worse, have to dig out the router to find it — then this one is a lifesaver.
You can set up an NFC tag to automatically connect guests to your WiFi without having to dictate your password to them. A real time saver.
10. A makeshift pet tracker
NFC tags are extremely lightweight, which means they can easily be added to a pet’s collar.
Why would you want that? Well, it means if your cat or dog goes missing, anybody finding the pet can tap their phone to the tag and instantly have your number to get in touch, reuniting you with the missing animal. Obviously not everyone will recognize a tag, but it could still be a life saver!
A world of possibilities
So buy a bunch of NFC tags and see how you get on. You might just come up with a shortcut that changes your life.
As with the genius ideas for smart plugs, there are infinite possibilities for NFC tags — the challenge is thinking of them. But, in short, if it’s something that your phone can do, then creating an automated shortcut should be trivial.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.
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