NFC And Me - The Cool Part

Having the NFC chip in my hand for almost a month, I've been thinking about what I'm going to do with it. It's kind of fun, but on it's own, it's not very practical (I did like this article about a guy who's finding good uses for his chips). Both my cats have microchips in them from the animal shelter, but in terms of functionality we're the worst family of cyborgs ever.

With NFC - once again Arduino libraries get you just enough to get going but don't fully flesh everything out. The library I found can read the ID of the chip but I haven't figured out how to write to it yet, really showing where I stand on the cyborg usefulness list. (My cats' chips will help someone contact me if they ever escape - I'm clearly in last place)

I think something that would be really fun to build is a back of the hand security glove that relied on your chip being present and bluetooth proximity to lock and unlock your computer. I plan on wiring up my Bean to the NFC reader and making a screen lock app for my computer - unlock automatically when the Bean is there, otherwise need a password. The Bean's program will always first check to be sure that the NFC chip is read and has the ID you'd expect. This gets around the limitation that I can't put bluetooth in my hand, and the chip can't be guaranteed to be in range of a NFC antenna while I am at the computer.

I will end up with one, really lumpy and weird looking glove, of course, but this is the most practical thing I can think of, and will hopefully make me a slightly more useful cyborg than my cats.

Trying to find a better solution for the NFC part of this has been a challenge. They do make NFC boards that can support external antennas (here and here) but they're relatively expensive and, in the case of that second link, the bulk of the built in antenna is still there - although I'm sure I could cut that off.

In antenna selection, the perfect one does exist (here, the FXR.05.A) but no one is selling it. Of the global or North American distributors, no one has it in stock besides RichardsonRFPD and they have a $15 shipping fee no matter what. I emailed them asking them if they'd just stick it in a USPS envelope, and someone checked with sales - their sales team has a $150 minimum. Sigh.

Like with all my electronics woes, I spoke to my dad - he thinks we could make our own NFC reader antenna just by copying an existing design, then modify the board to attach it. That would be ideal, so we'll see after I build my first prototype.

Tonight I got everything working independently, but the board needs a 3.3v input - the Bean only gives out 3v and the cell battery probably wouldn't last very long powering both anyway. I'm going to see if I could stick a AAA battery (since I already have the chassis) and step up the voltage to get it to work. I don't care as much how ugly and bulky the first prototype would be, since things can usually be designed to be smaller.

Lastly, I should be getting in a laptop that can support Bluetooth 2.0 this week, so I will be able to talk to the Bean directly to start working on the screen lock app.

So all of this on top of something THAT I CAN'T TALK ABOUT YET ARGH and getting my spider robot walking. It's going to be a good winter for this team of terrible cyborgs ;)