How to use NFC tags with your BlackBerry Smartphone

NFC Tags BlackBerry Bold 9900
By Adam Zeis on 16 Jan 2012 03:59 pm
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A few days before CES I was browsing Amazon for my last minute travel items and randomly decided to pick up some NFC tags to use with my BlackBerry Bold 9900. What I was going to use them for exactly I wasn't quite sure, but I knew a bit about the NFCShortcuts (formerly NFCLauncher) app and figured if nothing else I could play around a bit. I picked up some Mifare Ultralight NFC Tags (pack of 10 tags for $15) and was on my way to NFC goodness. Unfortunately the tags didn't arrive before I left for my CES journey, but I did have plenty of time to play around over the weekend after I got back. Keep reading and we'll take a look at how these NFC tags work and just what you can use them for on your BlackBerry Smartphone.

Using NFC Tags with your BlackBerry Smartphone

First off you may be asking yourself, what is NFC? We have a great post that explains in detail just what NFC is and why it matters to you. 

To get started you'll need a few things. Obviously you'll need a BlackBerry with NFC capabilities like the Bold 9900/9930 or Curve 9360 and some quality NFC tags. Then you'll have to pick up NFCShortctuts ($2.99 in BlackBerry App World) for basic tasks like launching apps, and if you want to get into it a bit more, ShortcutMe ($4.99 in BlackBerry App World) for some extended functionality.

Now once you have everything you need, the steps to get up and running are really dead simple. First off you'll have to wipe the Smart Tag data from the NFC tag you want to use (this keeps any pre-programmed URLs etc. from popping up when you scan a tag). You can do this using the Write to Tag option in the NFCShortcuts app (just be sure not to lock the tag after writing). From here you have a clean tag to play around with. Choose Add a New Tag in NFCShortcuts, then scan your empty tag. From this menu you can choose the action to take when the tag is scanned. The list here shows all the apps on your device and you can choose to launch one when the tag is scanned. Choose an app and you're set. Now exit NFCShortcuts and scan the tag -- you'll be taken to the app you chose in the last step. Pretty sweet huh? Make sure you have your NFC settings the way you want them to. Go to Options > Network and Connections > Near Field Communication to tweak as needed.

Now if you're like me you'll realize that simply launching an app with an NFC tag gets pretty boring after a while. If you want something more, you can get really carried away by combining NFCShortcuts with ShortcutMe on your Blackberry. ShortcutMe has been around for quite some time and is essentially a shortcut app for your device, but when putting it together with the power of NFC, it allows you to do pretty much anything -- including changing profiles, toggle Bluetooth & Wifi, send a text message, make a phone call, launch an app, turn on your flashlight, set your alarm ... the list goes on and on. So do I recommend having the app? If you plan on going NFC crazy, then yes. 

From here you'll have to decide just what you want to do when you scan that NFC tag. Do you want to scan a tag in your car to enable Bluetooth? Scan a tag by your office door to send your spouse a text saying you're on the way home? Have a tag on your nightstand to turn on your flashlight? The possibilities are really only limited by your needs and imagination. 

To perform any of these tasks, you just need to setup a shortcut within ShortcutMe. It's all pretty straight forward here as many of the shortcuts are preloaded in the app, but if you're techy enough you can play around with macros and all of the other fun stuff that ShortcutMe offers. Depending on what you want to accomplish, you'll most likely have to create some custom shortcuts (with much trial and error) to ultimately get the job done.

Let's take a look at some of the shortcuts I've created (nothing fancy) to take advantage of the NFC on my Bold 9900:

Flashlight

This one is super simple and pretty practical for me. I've set a tag on my nightstand that, when scanned, turns on the flashlight on my 9900 (flashlight meaning video camera flash). I do this by combining a preloaded command in ShortcutMe with a tag in NFCShortcuts and presto! Flashlight on demand. Very simple.

On My Way Text

I don't use my phone in the car all that much, but ideally using an NFC tag to turn on Bluetooth and connect to a wireless device would be awesome in the car. Scan to enable Bluetooth and connect when you get in the car, then scan again to disconnect when you get where you're going. Since I'm not a Bluetooth kind of guy, I typically send my wife an "On my way" text when I'm heading home from somewhere. Using NFC makes this process as simple as can be. I created a shortcut that is set to compose a text to my wife with the message "On my way". I placed the NFC tag on my sun visor, so when I need to send that message, I tap the tag with my device and I'm done. Granted sometimes it may error out or not be in serivce, but I haven't run into this issue yet :)

Open My Front Door

Perhaps my favorite NFC tag so far is the one I have at the front door of my house. A while back I installed a full Schalge LiNK (now Nexia) system in my house that includes camera, a thermostat, light modules and best of all a keypad lever for my door. This system has a BlackBerry app available that allows you to control everything in your house - including the front door. So what better way to use NFC than to unlock my door for me? Now while this method isn't perfect, it definitely is geeky enough to make me smirk (and for my friends to think I'm nuts). Getting this done requires a hefty macro shortcut in ShortcutMe which opens my Nexia app, puts in my pass code, navigates to the door tab in the app and enters the unlock command. If all goes well (and my network isn't boggy) then my door unlocks in a few seconds (and by "a few seconds" I mean anywhere from 5 to 30 depending on what kind of mood my device is in).

Sure, there are locks intended for this, but for the purposes of BlackBerry, NFC and just plain old fun, this one suits me just fine. We actually came across some sweet locks from Yale that look to incorporate NFC in the near future and I can only hope that Schalge chooses to do the same.

Tag!!

So as you can imagine, there are tons of ways you can choose to use NFC with your BlackBerry. Many users think that having NFC on their device is just a bonus they can put to use down the road, but the truth is, you can grab yourself some NFC tags right now and start using NFC on your BlackBerry. The tags aren't expensive and the apps won't set you back much either -- so to get up and running all together will cost you less than $25. The examples I have here are really basic and given some time and effort, you can go wild with all kinds of things using NFC. Start your media player, take a screenshot, make a phone call, send a tweet ... you name it. If you give any of this a shot, be sure to leave a comment letting us know how you're putting NFC to use (I need more ideas!!). 

More information/download of ShortcutMe
More information/download of NFCShortcuts
Buy Mifare Ultralight NFC Tags at Amazon
Near Field Communication - what is it and why should I care?

41 comments

npunk42

Thanks for this, it answered most of my questions about NFC.

lalido

All the possibilities!!
A Tag at work/school to put your phone in vibrate only mode!

Anybody have any other ideas?

Vijik

You can find more ideas if you google:

9900 nfc tags ideas crackberry

The first link should be the link to a crackberry thread.

silly_walk

Holding Q accomplishes that. Why would you need another way?

killa4luv

BEcause we didn't know about this way. Thanks!

GlowingBlue

So I can do this? :

NFC tag @ office desk
-- Turns on WIFI
-- Turns off HSPA+, bluetooth
-- Profile to silent mode

NFC tag @ car dash
-- Turns off WIFI
-- Turns on HSDP+, bluetooth
-- Turn on normal profile
-- Start playing Podcast Playlist

NFC tag @ playbook
-- Initiate bridge
-- Initiate Wifi Hotspot

?

Adam Zeis

Yup you should be able to. Will take some doing within the apps, but what you have there should be possible.

GlowingBlue

Thanks Adam!
Would you know how many commands you'd have to put before "maxing out" a single NFC tag? Just curious.... ^_^

Adam Zeis

No clue sorry. The shortcuts really run through the app, so it's not so much the tag as the app that would max out. But I think for the most part you shold be fine :)

travaz

According to the information for the tags they hold 1536 bits of data. I dont know what that would equate to but i am sure some of our Crackberry Geeks could quantify it.

Vijik

The tags need to have just few bytes of user memory (smallest memory size Mifare Ultralight tags are fine). Those few bytes are enough to hold information about your shortcut in NFCShortcuts.
Your major settings/commands are in NFC shortcuts and ShortcutMe macros, something that is both functionally and physically close to limitless.

brug0710

Adam can you tell me the name of the font that you are using and where can I find it?

Thank's

ummie4

you will need to purchase 2 apps. most likely the NFC Shortcuts app will not be enough. You will need to buy shortcut me to bind the short cut. NFC shortcuts is just a launcher.

ccdawg

so freaking cool, thanks

corn1185

Corn what if you have a 9360 from T- Mobile that NFC feature was disabled.

Vijik

Thank T-mobile for disabling a feature you have paid for?

Verizon and AT&T did disable NFC in the beginning but they had to give up on that policy. This will eventually happen to T-Mobile too. NFC is too cool to be ignored or fought by carriers.

MB_JohnPeters

I ordered my tags through tagstand.com.
I manage a Rogers Wireless location and programed a bunch of tags with different Rogers Wireless URL's and stuck them all over the store, makes it really easy to show off the NFC capabilities of the 9900 while selling devices. Doing this has sold at least a dozen NFC BB's.

I also set up a tag stuck on the dash of my car to:
-Turn on bluetooth
-Turn on Wifi Hotspot (cause I always have my Playbook with me and want it to be hotspot connected)
-Turn on Drivesafely
-Launch Blackberry Traffic, automatic destination selection, automatic BBM to my wife telling her EXACTLY what time I'll be home (crazy accurate!)

I have another one beside my bed that:
-Sets my Status as unavailable
-Enters Bedside Mode
-Sets my alarm for 7:00 and dims the screen

2 on my Laptop:
-One that launches a new task
-One that launches a new calander appointment.

and the list goes on............

luigigosc

crackberry nation demands videos....hehe and plz plz post more...this is amazing...the laptop ones are simply great i can imagine using this every day...

ellas_1

Hey, just got my tags and struggling how to set up these. I bought both ShortcutMe and NFC Shortcuts. Does anyone know what are macros? How do you create them? Is there a sequence..?

Sorry if its a newb question..

JAGWIRE

WOW... thats all i need to say

Spinner222

Awesome...thanks for posting! Has keeping NFC enabled on your 9900 affected your battery life at all?

mousii

Yes, can someone comment on batery life while using NFC?

amccray5

Can't wait to get rolling with NFC!! Would quicklaunch substitute for shortcutme?

Vijik

No. The key is the macros in ShortcutMe, something no other app has.

Google the following, and see what people do with ShortcutMe and NFCShortcuts:

9900 nfc tags ideas crackberry

robsteve

Are there any Canadian sources for the tags? I just tried one of the US sites and the cost to ship 20 tags was more than the cost of the tags.

BBNation

Remember RIM is also working with HID the biggest company for access fobs and new BBs will be able to let you in work or anyother place that has fob enabled. One less thing to carry for BB users.

worstcase

Great video.

I am from germany and had trouble buying NFC tags for my 9900. (I do not like orders with credit cart and high shipping duration and costs to germany).

Luckily I found www.nfc-tag-shop.de and ordered their starter kit. Now i am playing around with the NFC_laucher app. Preparing my desk and my car with stickers :)

Jitukali

Surprising that I have bold 9900 ATT with 7.1 but I don't have that NFC thought I can see that tag icon under BBM.. its unusable since no NFC can anybody help me out here

brug0710

Adam can you tell me the name of the font that you are using and where can I find it?

Thank's

ffejie

So can you build a tag to unlock your device, or can this work through the lock screen? I'm not sure how useful it is otherwise, considering my device is set to autolock.

bajbajbaj1

Awesome video guys! I always thought of NFC as a credit card substitute whilst shopping at Macy's lol. Great ideas guys! I'll be tagging my entire house very, very soon!! :-)
--Joz

mrskycar

I think it is worth mentioning in this article you need to get the correct tags.

kalbers

After a bit of learning and some frustration I was able to write a macro that turns off all my connections except NFC and launches media player and selects my running playlist - pretty slick! http://crackberry.com/how-use-nfc-tags-blackberry is what you need for the Macros and the support at Shortcutme excellent - fast - a few hours response time.

timmy t

Do you have to buy these tags or can you print them off or what?

ysbeyond

hello, i hv a question, NFCShortcuts can't be downloaded to my z10, which is only for os7.
how to realize the function? some software to be recommanded ?
thank you!

BlackBerryAddict3

Hi everyone,
I just bought the NFCShortcuts App on the Blackberry App World ans I have a few questions :
First of all, I would like to write a Tag that toggles WiFi (I mean when I tap it once, it enables it and if I tap it a second time, it disables it), I would like it to put my phone in normal mode,(and if I tap it a second time it puts my phone into vibrate mode) and a last thing, I wolud like the tag to launch the Facebook app. And everything on one tag ...

But I have a problem, I don't know how to use the app, and I don't know what to write into the "parameter" section for some tasks, it seemd simple to me untill I purchase it and I have to say, now, I'm lost :/
If anyone can tell me how to use the app and how to write my tag so it does what I mentioned.
I'm 18 and I'm French but don't worry about writing scientific English, I understand English very well ;)
Thank You !

riss89

Interesting but seems like more work in the end to arrive at the same result

MarioOvalle

Hey everyone i need help i buy a Z30 and i like to use the NFC but the TAGS what i buy dont work the TAGS are to 1KLB somebody can tell me what kind of NFC can use for my BB Z30 i need to write information more to 1KLB per TAGS thanks