Smartphones

Create location-aware profiles to automate tasks with NFC Task Launcher

Jack Wallen takes a look at NFC Task Launcher and how to create a tag that will automatically connect a device to a wireless access point.

There are many ways to flex your Android smartphone muscles to help make your mobile device not only easier to use, but practically automatic. One very useful tool is NFC Task Launcher, which allows you to purchase NFC tags, place them in specific locations, write commands to the tag (through the Android device), and then make magic happen.

With this handy app/tag combo, you can do things like:

  • Turn on and off services based on location
  • Fire up a music app when you place the phone in a dock in your car
  • Set your phone for "sleep" mode when you scan a tag on your night stand
  • Allow guests to automatically connect to Wi-Fi at your house by simply scanning the tag
  • Enforce a phone silence policy for meetings by making all Android users scan the "meeting tag"
  • Set up automated tethering
  • Install plugins for SMS and phone calls

The system supports the following services:

  • Turn Wi-Fi on or off
  • Turn Bluetooth on or off
  • Make Bluetooth discoverable
  • Turn Airplane mode on or off
  • Launch any installed application
  • Configure a new Wi-Fi connection and connect
  • Configure and enable portable hotspot
  • Turn auto-sync on or off
  • Turn auto-rotation on or off
  • Turn notification light on or off
  • Set display brightness and auto-brightness
  • Launch any Tasker Task (for users of Tasker)
  • Change ringtone
  • Change notification tone
  • Change ringer mode (normal/silent/vibrate)
  • Change ringer volume
  • Change media volume
  • Change alarm volume
  • Change notification volume
  • Set vibration
  • Set alarm (both a fixed time and as a timer)
  • Check in with Google Latitude, Foursquare, Facebook, and Google Places
  • Send a tweet on Twitter directly from the tag
  • Start / stop media playback
  • Turn GPS on or off (root required)
  • Turn mobile data on or off (root required)
  • Change display timeout
  • Change auto-rotation
  • Change notification light

Since the service is written to a tag, nothing has to be configured from the end user's perspective.

What you'll need:

Installing

To install NFC Task Launcher on your Android smartphone, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Google Play Store
  2. Search for "nfc task launcher" (no quotes)
  3. Tap the entry for NFC Task Launcher
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept & download

If you know you'll need/want the SMS and Call plugins, complete the steps above for those two plugins as well. Once your installation is complete, you're ready to begin.

Usage

Let's walk through the creation of a Task Launcher tag that will automatically connect a device to a wireless access point. With this set up, the user won't even need to be told the SSID or the password. Here are the steps for this process:

Step 1: Open NFC Task Launcher

This one is self explanatory. You'll find the launcher icon for the app either on your home screen or in your app drawer.

Step 2: Enable NFC When you first run the application, if NFC isn't running on the phone, you'll be prompted to enable the service. Tap on the Settings button (Figure A) to navigate to the NFC settings. Figure A

Setting up NFC Task Launcher on a Verizon-branded Razr Maxx HD.

In the Settings window, tap the NFC entry to enable the service, and then tap Enable to confirm. Once you've enabled NFC, tap the back button to go back to the NFC Task Launcher application.

Step 3: Create the new tag Tap the plus sign [+] in the upper right corner of the main window (Figure B). Figure B

From the main window, you can also purchase new tags.
Tap New Task from the Select Tag Type window, and then enter a name for the tag at the top of the new window (Figure C). Figure C

Make sure to give the tag a unique name.
Once you have a name, tap the Add actions button. Select Wireless & Networks, and from the options that appear, tap Wifi Connect, and then tap Next.  In the new window (Figure D), enter the necessary information for the connection, and then tap OK. Figure D

Make sure to select the right Auth Type for the connection (WEP, WPA, WPA2).
Finally, tap Save & Writer (upper right corner of the New Tag window). The resulting window (Figure E) will instruct you to hold the tag up against the back of the phone. Figure E

If you want to write more than one tag for this action, check the box for Write multiple tags.

You have the following options:

  • Include tag name
  • Write multiple tags
  • Make tag read-only

Once you've written the tag, tap the Done button (top right corner), and you're ready to use the tag. Locate the tag in a convenient place so that when people need to use the tag (by placing the backs of their phone against said tag), they can easily access it.

NFC Task Launcher is an amazing tool to help automate certain tasks and make your life quite a bit easier. Give this tool a try, and see if you don't wind up with creative and/or convenient tags all over your working and personal environment.

Have you taken used NFC tags? Share you experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

5 comments
mark.cooper
mark.cooper

I can have my Lumia 822 automatically start a task (music player or other apps) when docked to the Nokia Wireless Charging Stand. Seems kind of slick. JJFitz - If you have a company supplied phone and are entering a company conference room I think you'd have to trust the tag. If you have a personal phone, just leave the phone in your office before entering the conference room.

JJFitz
JJFitz

1. Most people do not have NFC capable smartphones. 2. I would not feel comfortable scanning an unknown NFC tag. How do I know that the only thing the tag is doing is setting me up for wireless? 3. Enforcing "a phone silence policy for meetings by making all Android users scan the meeting tag" sounds more like punishment for Android users with NFC. Not until every smartphone can be silenced this way would it seem fair. Why not just tell everyone to turn sound off? 4. Tasker is a personal "software only" alternative for Androids. I could probably automate everything on your list with Tasker.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I agree that if your company provided the smartphone and you are in a meeting at your company, then you could use the nfc tag but a cheaper solution would be to ask everybody to turn their phones to silent. I set up Tasker to automatically set my smartphone to vibrate by looking at my calendar. If I am scheduled for an appointment and I am at work (based on wifi availability) and I am not the only one attending then set the phone to vibrate It's very easy to set up. I too had a desktop charging dock, a lapdock and a car dock for my Motorola. If the smartphone is in either of these docks, Smart Actions could be programmed to do certain things. My replacement (the Gallaxy Note 2) has it's own "Page Buddys" that can be programmed. If the stylus is removed, if the earphones are plugged in, if it is docked, if it is roaming. It's not as granular as Tasker but it is helpful.

mark.cooper
mark.cooper

I agree that it would be easier/cheaper to ask everyone at a meeting to silence their phones instead of using an NFC tag. I was addressing your discomfort at not knowing what the tag would tell your phone to do. Reading more about WP8 NFC, tags can bring up a settings screen, but they can't change the settings. I don't know how that works in the Android world. Mark

JJFitz
JJFitz

I would hope that it would ask your permission to make a change but you never know...