My automated life with NFC and IFTTT


If you’re either lazy, highly organised or interested in new technologies then this post is for you. I’m currently experimenting with three very cool technologies which work with my smartphone and other devices. The three areas I’m looking at are…

  • Wireless charging
  • NFC tags
  • IFTTT automation

Basically at the end of the process I should be able to do things like simply placing my phone on my bedside unit and it will do the following: charge wirelessly, set my alarm, reduce the volume of the phone, dim the screen, switch off Bluetooth and do pretty much anything else I want it to do. No wires or clicks required. If this sounds like witchcraft to you, read on.

Wireless charging
I recently read an article on Pocket-lint on wireless charging and there was a video by someone who had integrated a wireless charger into his bedside unit so that at bedtime he just had to place his mobile phone on the unit and it would start charging. No fumbling around for a cable. And to top it off, the beside unit he used is the exact same one that I have. I will have to buy a wireless charger but I’m up for getting one and trying it out.

NFC tags
NFC tags have been around for a while, in things like Oyster travel cards in London. They are now, however, really cheap and easy to use and can be used with more and more smartphones. A colleague of mine at LEWIS PR bought some from Amazon and I think they were only about £1 each. They came as a simple sticker and look quite cool (see image at the top of this post). They’re about the size of a 50p coin. I downloaded an app called NFC Task Launcher (no longer available at this link but I believe it is now called Trigger) which lets you make a Task. This can be anything such as switching WiFi or Bluetooth on, changing the volume, setting an alarm or checking into FourSquare. Anything you can do on your phone you can create a task for. You can also create multiple actions in a Task. When you then simply place your phone next to that NFC chip these tasks are performed automatically. For example if you had one in your car you could set it to automatically change your phone settings to increase the volume and switch on Bluetooth whenever you placed your phone on the dashboard or wherever. No wires or buttons. You just need to place your phone near the NFC tag.

IFTTT automation
IFTTT has been around for a few years. If This Then That. A simple programming concept to create chain tasks that automate when you do stuff online. For example when you favourite a picture on Instagram it can update your Facebook status and also save a copy of the photo to your DropBox. Or if someone mentions you on Twitter you can add it to a spreadsheet on Google Drive. You can mix and match actions to create your own ‘recipes’. But this month they have taken this to the next level and entered the physical world. You can buy real world devices which work with IFTTT such as switches and motion sensors. You can sync a weather website to automatically work out when the sun sets and this then switches on your lights at home. Or set an alarm to automatically switch on your main bedroom light at a certain time each morning. Or if someone walks into your child’s bedroom it could automatically send you a text. I could go on. And on.

The combinations of all the above are endless, and they aren’t just gimmicky. This is actual helpfulness to make our lives easier. You could combine the above to have a unit in the hall of your house that when you come home from work you place your phone on the unit and it starts charging, checks you in on FourSquare, switches on WiFi, turns your lights on in the house, sends your wife a text that you’re home and starts playing music on your Bluetooth speakers.

The possibilities are endless. If you can think of a mundane electronic task you have to do it can probably be automated in some way. The problem is that the time I save will probably be spent thinking of more cool ways to use this tech. Time well spent I reckon.

Got any other cool ideas for using this tech? Let me know in the comments.

Social gaming – are we having fun yet?

Gaming is no longer the domain of the teenager or young adult. And I’m not just talking about video games. They became mainstream years ago. Now we are all allowed to have fun, and we’re allowed to have it anywhere we want. This act of gamification is evident everywhere, from unlocking badges in FourSquare or Gowalla, to making exercise and education fun in video games such as WiiFit and Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training. Fun is being used as a way to instigate interaction and participation. The brilliant Fun Theory videos by Volkswagen take this to another level such as their video where speeding drivers’ fines get put into a Lottery pot which is won by one of the safe drivers on the same stretch of road. Everything now needs fun and rewards.

There’s no question that social gaming has almost always been preferred than playing games on our own. Watching experts play Street Fighter down the arcade was better than just playing against the computer in your bedroom. Playing with a friend on Bubble Bobble or with several friends on Gauntlet are some of the seminal moments in gaming history. And more recently technologies like Xbox Live have revolutionised the gaming experience. This social gaming mentality is now crossing borders and is breaking into mainstream activities. Is it the competitive element we love? Or the rewards? Or just the fact that we can have fun doing things that used to be boring? In a time where recession depression looms permanently overhead, our common woes are being relieved by bouts of social gaming. You know that other people, including your friends, are playing these games and so you feel a part of a bigger group. Or to put it another way you know that you are not alone. After all, isn’t that our biggest fear? Being alone? Stats reveal that some online games have higher audiences than prime time TV shows. Farmville recently had 30 million players per day while Dancing With The Stars in the US had about 24 million viewers (stats via

Nintendo’s new handheld console the 3DS has a groundbreaking 3D technology which doesn’t need glasses. That’s amazing. And yet this isn’t the feature that is drawing everyone to the device. It’s their Street Pass technology, which for example allows users to play a game of Street Fighter wirelessly with anyone else on the train who happens to have a 3DS, or exchange game puzzle information with each other even when the device is in sleep mode, which is proving to be attracting many people.

And no article about social gaming would be complete without mentioning the phenomenon that is Angry Birds. Even though I am one of the few who don’t actually like it (I can hear you gasp as I type this – I prefer Cut The Rope), there’s no denying that Angry Birds has become a behemoth of social gaming. Not only is it linking in with Facebook (almost a necessity these days), where it can access all your personal data, but it is also becoming a mega brand of its own. Over 12 million paid copies have been download, and over 30 million of the free version. It is generating over $1 million a day in advertising and is moving into the areas of clothing, plush toys and even a full length feature movie. All from a little game you play on your smartphone.

One other very exciting technology is Screach which allows people with any smartphone to join in a game, using the phone as a controller, such as on a big screen in a bar and compete with their fellow patrons. It could revolutionise the pub quiz. Every interaction has a value and advertisers might pay to join in those interactions or the user might pay for the experience. This paves the way for the main investers in social gaming: advertising, vouchers and coupons. More and more we are seeing adverts placed inside the games themselves, such as real products being grown within Farmville or in-game billboards in many titles. And vouchers and coupons which have been used in networks such as FourSquare, Gowalla and Groupon for a long time are now making their way into games. One user has a value, but when that user is part of a network with similar interests and has a passion for achieving fun goals, that value is multiplied.

So next time you’re enjoying playing a social game, think about all those people who are benefitting from you having fun. It’s good to share the love. Just remember that, as in any game, we can’t all be winners. Or can we?

[Via LEWIS 360]