NFC tags in the smart home: How to set up the cheap helpers

NFC tags: The inconspicuous and inexpensive helpers in the smart home

An NFC tag on your keychain lets you store and share your contact information

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All sorts of automations can be saved on NFC tags. The guide reveals what benefits this has in the smart home and how it works with an iPhone.

NFC stands for “Near Field Communication” and is familiar to most people when they pay at the bakery or supermarket checkout with their smartphone or EC card. But NFC can do more, much more, and it succeeds with NFC tags. These are small stickers that can interact with smartphones and execute predefined commands as soon as the smartphone is nearby.

It sounds complicated at first, but it isn’t. All you need is a smartphone with an NFC chip, NFC tags and a modicum of patience to set up the tags using your smartphone. If you are now wondering what exactly this is good for, let’s take a quick look at the situations in which NFC tags make life easier in the smart home before we give an example NFC tag set up with the iPhone:

An NFC tag can:

  • display when the washing machine is ready,
  • Call for help when toilet paper runs out
  • dim the light, turn it on and off,
  • play music on the smart speaker,
  • switch off all devices and switch on the vacuum robot when leaving the house,
  • regulate the heating
  • Turn off lights and outlets when going to bed
  • take on different functions depending on the time, for example switching on the light in the bathroom and hallway at night,
  • share the WiFi for guests
  • and much more.

Instructions: Configure the NFC tag with the iPhone

Setting up an NFC tag with the iPhone is not difficult – at least if the iPhone is running the latest iOS, has an NFC chip (from iPhone X) and the “Shortcuts” app is installed. We want one as an example NFC tag for the living room, which dims the floor lamp in the room to 35 percent and sets the heating to 19.5 degrees, so that nothing stands in the way of a relaxed evening on the couch with Netflix. The following steps are necessary for this:

  1. open the Shortcuts app,
  2. select the “Automation” tab in the app,
  3. click on the plus at the top right,
  4. select “Personal Automation”,
  5. Scroll down until “NFC” appears and click on it,
  6. Select “Scan NFC tag”
  7. Hold the NFC tag to the iPhone camera and assign a name,
  8. click on “Next”,
  9. Select “Add action”,
  10. Click “Select apps” and select the “Home app” there,
  11. Select “Control my home”,
  12. tap on “Scenes and Devices”,
  13. Select “Heater” and “Floor lamp” in the living room and click “Next” ,
  14. Adjust brightness and temperature and click “Done”,
  15. Remove the tick from “Confirm before executing”, otherwise the NFC command must always be confirmed on the smartphone.

NFC tag: Set up if-then script

The heating and light will now switch on when the iPhone is connected to the NFC tag interacts. But that’s not enough for us: After all, we also want to switch off the smart devices when we leave the room and this should be done with the same NFC tag. So we need to refine it a bit and it works like this:

  1. Select the NFC tag under “Automation”,
  2. Click “Configure Devices”
  3. Select “Find apps and actions”
  4. select “scripts”,
  5. Scroll down to “Program flow” and select “If”.
  6. Now duplicate “set 2 devices”. This works with a long tap on the home icon.
  7. Drag and drop the two commands under “If” and “Else”,
  8. Under “If” click “Enter” and select the floor lamp
  9. behind it click on “Name” and select “Is off”,
  10. Click on “2 devices” under “Other” and turn off or turn down the heating and floor lamp.

Finished. Now the NFC tag automatically switches on the floor lamp and heating, if the lamp the end is. Otherwise (if the floor lamp on is) switches the NFC tag turn off the lamp and turn down the heating. Siri can only do this by voice command if you separate the two commands. So first turn off the light and then regulate the heating.

By the way: Up to the step (“Add action”) of the first guide, the guide is the same for other NFC tags. For example, under Add Action you can also automate a timer or a reminder to remind you of your laundry in the washing machine. You can also configure the NFC tag as a digital business card and share your contact details, Instagram or Facebook add. There are even EC card format NFC tags that you can configure like this.

Attach the NFC tag inconspicuously

Unfortunately, NFC tags have one disadvantage: the mostly white, round dots have the potential to drive the inner autistic person to incandescence if they are carelessly placed on furniture, washing machines, etc. If you want to avoid this, you can also hide the small stickers. Possible places are:

  • under the table
  • under coasters
  • on the back of picture frames
  • behind light switches

If you attach the NFC tags under or behind tables and frames, they must not be too wide, because the NFC transmission is only possible over a few centimeters. By the way there is NFC tags also in different colors.

NFC tags: no automation with Apple Watch

Anyone thinking of triggering NFC automation with their Apple Watch will be disappointed. Although the operation of the NFC tags via smartwatch would correspond to the natural user sensitivity and would be extremely convenient because you could attach the tags for switching on and off in the door frame at wrist height – but that is not possible. Why, why, why remains Apple’s secret. However, it is likely that the manufacturer wants to conserve the battery of his watch. The NFC tag gets its power from the transmitter device, i.e. from the smartphone. The Apple Watch would have to be the power source, which would melt its battery faster.,

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