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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

NFC Tags-Fun, And Maybe Useful at SQLSaturday

Last week I had one of those days when I read something and then heard someone talking about the same thing – in this case the dual reference as about NFC tags. NFC stands for near field communication and is built into some smart phones as a way to interact with the ‘tag’. That lead to a discussion and me thinking about what it might be good for, so I ordered a 10-pack for $13 at Amazon.

10 Pack of NTAG203 by WhizTags

They arrived yesterday, just round circles about half dollar sized with some adhesive on the back. Various colors in the pack, plus one key ring you can stick one on if you want to. We did some experimenting at the office and they are easy enough to use. Just get them in contact with the phone in the right place. Not much range on these, in our informal tests it was inches or less. The best app I found so far for working with them is Trigger for Android, free at Google Play. It will let you read from tags, write to tags, and most interestingly, it will run triggers based on the text you put on the tag. Triggers can run multiple commands, so you can have a tag for your car that launches a trigger to switch bluetooth on, turn wireless off, and send a text message to your significant other that you’re in the car.

Reading about them, common personal use cases seem to tagging the car, bedside table for night mode, even one next to the shower to turn on music loud. The car mode seems the most interesting, but now that I have them I’m looking – where could I use these to my my life better? Maybe a ‘do not disturb’ tag that will be where I put my phone when taking notes for a meeting.

The tag content is just text (I guess it could be binary). The ones I noted above don’t have much capacity, but enough. It’s clear text so it’s not the place for anything you want to keep secret – but mostly it will be a word like ‘car’ or ‘meeting’. As far as I know there is not much risk from scanning an unknown tag, you have to have a trigger-ish app set up to respond to the text for anything to change on the device.

I was really curious, could these be used for events instead of raffle tickets, maybe even for checking in to a room? To make this work at an event we would have to write to them when someone checked in. It’s not much work, but it is some work and would take some time – say a minute per person to do the look up and get ready to write to the tag. The text would be a simple ID, something like their last name and their registration ID. Assuming sponsors had an NFC enabled device attendees could ‘swipe’ the device and then – some magic as yet undefined – the device would save it to a list. That would then get matched to the registration list by the organizers later (today we do it with QR tags).

I’d like to do a limited trial of it, but I don’t know that I have high hopes for it. It would/could slow down check-in, it’s one more thing to learn/manage, and we would have to educate the sponsors and make sure they had a NFC enabled device (or provide one I suppose). They are also finicky, you have to put them in just the right spot or they don’t get activated.

Flipping it around, these could be interesting items for sponsors to give way. Put your logo on them and maybe a URL, see how many people use/adopt NFC – maybe that leads to something?

I had $13 worth of fun/learning, no complaints. Now that I’ve seen and tried them maybe I’ll find more uses for them, will be interesting to see.

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