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Gamma Science

Would You Like Chips With That?

What Could YOU do with NFC and RFID Tags?

The Head of the Geekforce has been playing with NFC and RFID tags recently. These are tiny chips which when coupled with a slightly larger antenna, maybe a couple of centimeters across, and the thickness of light card, can store and send data to a device a couple of Centimetres away.

So what is the difference between them? How Stuff Works describes it like this; "NFC stands for Near Field Communication, while RFID means Radio Frequency Identification. Both employ radio signals for all sorts of tagging and tracking purposes, sometimes replacing bar codes."

RFID is an older technology, tends to be one way, and can work from up to a couple of feet away, while the newer, NFC chips have a range of a few centimeters, but can establish two-way communication, and this is what he is getting excited about!

You might be familiar with similar chips in your contactless credit card, E-Passport, or key fobs, but they are far more versatile than that.

The cool thing is that the majority of modern Smartphones have this technology built-in, (though users of older iPhones may need to download an App), so you can send data to a phone or a tablet by just touching it to a location.

And more many phones will interpret the data, so you can program actions into the tags, such as:
  • Visit a website
  • Send an email or SMS
  • Make a phone call
  • view an address on a map
  • open an app
  • provide a contact
  • logon to Wi-Fi network

The Android App has built-in security requiring user confirmation, for actions. especially those that may incur a charge.

While at first sight, these actions may seem a bit limited, we think, from a practical perspective, that they cover a lot of ground, if you are smart and flexible about how you use them. Best of all, these devices are cheap enough to use almost anywhere. We can build the tech, and program the system architecture, and, I think you will agree, they could be a powerful tool for automation.

Consider the potential of the first one! Just by tapping a device on a small, discreet label, a user's phone phone or tablet can communicate with a backend server, allowing you to present a form to collect especially relevant data, or perform an action such as recording, or presenting custom information, straight in the browser.

Larger devices, still smartphone sized, can house small microprocessors, powered from the reading device, and if you can get power to the devices, the world really is your oyster!

My fertile imagination came up with all sorts of potential uses for these, from encouraging user engagement, recording visitor numbers, commercial and industrial applications, to gaming!

So, what could you think of? Please comment with your ideas, the more off the wall the better! I would love to feature Roger's ideas on how to make them happen in a forthcoming blog post!