back to article You thought NFC tags were Not For Consumers? Well, they're in Maplin's

High street retailer Maplin will be stocking NFC tags, surely demonstrating that the technology is mainstream even if no one is quite sure what it's for. The tags, which  come from RapidNFC, are supplied in packs of twelve which retail at £9.99. That's a £1.70 premium on the manufacturers price of £8.29 but the manufacturer …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple's ongoing disdain for the technology

    what a week - I agree with... Apple?!

    (yeah, I know, I'm an idiot, and people at Apple are idiots), nfc is a wonderful technology, only that i's underused. And it's a f... understatement :)

  2. Mark Southee

    Using NFC Task Launcher and Tasker on Android, I have tags at work, home and in the car. I use them for profiles. At work the phone is set to vibrate, no WiFi. In the car it sends auto reply text to inform people I'm in the car and won't reply to sms. At home connects to home WiFi, etc.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      What a fine idea.

      Thank you. I shall steal it immediately!


      1. channel extended

        Re: What a fine idea.

        Steal it.

        Patent it.

        Sue your ass off.

    2. Richard 81

      Good idea

      There are location-based apps that do the same sort of thing, but who the hell walks around with their GPS on all the time?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good idea

        Some of them don't use gps for the location; they use nearby ssid, which base-station the phone can see etc.

        Let's be honest 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate.

        1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

          Re: 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate

          Does for me. Most days the difference between "at work", "in bed", or "relaxing in front of the telly" is a matter of perhaps 5 metres.

          I'm hoping these will work when stuck underneath wireless charging mats, for the perfect combination.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate @Geoff Campbell

            >Most days the difference between "at work", "in bed", or "relaxing in front of the telly" is a matter of perhaps 5 metres.

            Intriguing, by any chance is your bedroom window framed with red and blue flourescent lights?

        2. Kay Burley ate my hamster

          Re: Good idea

          >> Let's be honest 'at work' doesn't have to be that accurate

          Maybe you don't want the phone on vibrate when you are waiting outside for the bus (we don't all drive).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Good idea

            "we don't all drive"

            I usually walk to work, this has no bearing on whether my phone is on silent or not; that's governed by whether or not I was on-call that night.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      So that saves you about 5s each time, from manually setting the profile?

      I genuinely applaud the nerdiness, but not so sure it really solves a problem.

      1. DragonLord

        It also means that he doesn't have to remember to change his phone every time he changes location. Esp. the car as I assume he has a phone holder/charger in the car

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Having found that half-decent in-car holders for Nokia's are thin on the ground, I thought of using an NFC tag on a cheapo one to turn wifi off and car mode on rather than fumbling for the controls when I start the morning commute.

          alternatively one near front door to turn wifi off on the way out and another one to turn wifi on when I get in.

          but I've yet to come up with an absolute must-have use of an nfc tag.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @DragonLord 10:14

          It also means that he doesn't have to remember to change his phone every time he changes location. Esp. the car as I assume he has a phone holder/charger in the car

          He still has to remember to change his phone or tap a different tag when he leaves his car. This is a geek solution, no average person is going to stick NFC tags in their car and think this is a good idea.

          It would be FAR a better solution if his car had Bluetooth and his phone could auto detect it and go into car mode when it detects the car bluetooth (along with sending music through the speakers and maybe reading his texts to him, etc.) and leave car mode when it no longer detects his car's Bluetooth.

          I assume buying something you could plug into your cigarette lighter to emit Bluetooth to allow this to work in an older car (minus the working with your car's audio, of course) would be quite inexpensive, as well as being a far better solution than what this guy came up with. It would drain your battery when you aren't in your car (unless it was wired into the ignition so it only operates when your car does) but it would probably take years for something using Bluetooth 4LE to drain a car battery.

          Like I always say, NFC is a solution looking for a problem. And there are always better solutions to the problems it "solves".

          1. Samuel Penn

            Re: @DragonLord 10:14

            I have a bluetooth device that is powered from the car's cigarette lighter, and plugs into the car's audio (via the AUX socket). Switches to car mode and pipes audio through the car's speakers in one device. However, it sometimes picks up the bluetooth when I'm in the house, so it's not perfect. I think it was about £10.

            However, I'm tempted by the NFC tags just to see what I could do with them. They potentially have the feature of being a lot more precise.

          2. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

            Re: @DougS

            That's trivially easy, using the same NFC Task Switcher program that is used for detecting and reacting to the NFC tags. It can trigger an event on connection/disconnection of a named Bluetooth device.

            So I get the best of both worlds - NFC tags in the two offices I work in regularly, one by the bed, plus events triggered by the car Bluetooth system, and also by time, at 7am.


      2. Mark Southee

        As there are no in built profiles with Android (lots of 3rd party apps), using Tasker and NFC Task Launcher is the quickest way of putting the phone in the mode I want, with a simple wave of the phone at the tag

      3. Peshman

        Isn't that what convenience is about?


        I have Sony NFC tags dotted around, The one on my desk switches my ringtone from silent to vibrate, send an auto text to my Mrs, turns off WiFi, switches on Bluetooth, connects to my headset and starts my MP3 app. That's a heck of a lot of faffing about that I'm saved from as I'm trying to get away from my desk. One tap on the corner of my desk and I'm good to go.

    4. Lutin

      I like the in-car idea to auto-reply to texts, but tell me this: Do you have to turn off this "in car" mode by tapping on a different NFC tag, or is the phone aware that is no longer near the car tag and therefore automatically turns off?

      1. Mark Southee

        Yes, you have to tap another tag. So I have one attached to the in car holder, one stuck to my monitor at work, and one in my wallet for home.

        1. Stuart

          You only have to touch another tag in the default Android configuration. If you are happy to install a custom ROM then there's a modification from XDA-Developers that allows removal detection.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the car it sends auto reply text to inform people I'm in the car

      taking this a stage further they should embed NFC tags into seats/tables on trains so when the phone detects them it automatically goes through your contacts list and sends an "I'm on the train!" message to everyone you know.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do know that marvellous scheme is patented by my fine clients do you?

      Can't remember whether it's Apple or MS, why would I care, as long as they pay.

      I'll be in touch. Touch is better than NFC anyway for most things (but don't tell my clients I said that).

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I do the same

      Xperia phones come with an app that does the same stuff. I pity Apple owners and their 2010 feature-set.

      Perhaps we should club together and collect £200 so they can buy a superior Nexus4 to replace their £800 inferior phone.

    8. JohnG

      My LG Android phone came with one free tag and has the same profile setting idea. The idea is to have tags for Living Room, Bedroom, Car, Office/Desk, etc. with settings for alarms, sound volume, ring or vibrate, bluetooth handsfree, etc. - but they should have supplied more than one tag!

  3. Oli 1

    or you can goto ebay and get 10 for a £1, free delivery.

    1. andreas koch

      @ Oli 1 -


      or you can goto ebay and get 10 for a £1, free delivery.


      Here I have to chip in and defend the high street.

      True: Almost everything that you can buy in any high street store is cheaper on ebay, especially when technology related.

      The advantages of the ebay-traders are, of course, the traditional advantages of mail-order and catalogue businesses: No premium rents to pay, less lighting, heating, cleaning, much less staff (and that at a lower rate), and last but not at all least: No "customer" caused shrinkage. All this a brick shop has to put up with, but there's more. Lots of the electronics on ebay are from china, which means that even the lower costs for warehousing can be cut by 50% again.

      A big advantage of a shop is the quality. Surely this is stupid, because isn't the stock the same? Mainly yes, it's the same stuff from the same factory. But the quality control of the reseller will spot batch faults and report them to the maker to achieve a consistent level of quality. A substantial amount of cheap traders buy up reject or B-rated stock to sell on ebay. While this doesn't necessarily mean that you get rubbish, your chance is much higher and to return it and have it exchanged is often over-proportionally time-consuming and cumbersome, whereas you can just go back and have it swapped there and then if you buy from a high-street store. A good share of them will even help you to solve the problems that you had with the item, which, in some cases, isn't actually the item's fault, but a misunderstanding what it would do ("WiFi range extenders" don't actually extend the range of your WiFi, for example) and suggest a remedy. This is naturally because they want to sell something to you, but it helps you anyway.

      So, for example: You want to buy a mobile/ cell phone case. The thing costs £12.99 on the high street and £1.49 on ebay. It cost the manufacturer about 30p to make it, and 30% of his production are rejects, because the stiching isn't quite even, the colour is patchy or the cutout for the camera is not quite in the right place. These can either be binned or sold to a trader who isn't that picky.

      Now, if you find that your new 'phone case is less than perfect while you try it on in CPW or phones4U, you hand it back to the sales person and get it swapped for another one until you're happy or you have your money back. If you buy that from 'heavenlyblissebayshop', it's not worth complaining; a return would take 12 weeks for a round trip and cost you as much postage as ordering new and the replacement one is not necessarily better.

      Don't get me wrong, I order stuff from Shenzhen myself. But I'll be aware that it's a gamble on the quality, whether it turns up at all and how long it might take. If I want it now and perfect, the premium that I have to pay at a real counter is worth it.

      To me. Your mileage opinion might vary.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ Oli 1 -

        My local Maplin shop wants £17 a time for "sealed" lead acid batteries with their own brand name. No obvious indication how long they had sat on the shelf getting sulphated. The same price as Maplin online (with free postage).

        An eBay dealer was selling a similar apparently unbranded "compatible item" for £10 - but you had to spend over £25 to get free postage.

        Farnell online sold me two Yaesu branded for £10.75 each with free next day delivery.

        The Maplin business model just doesn't work any longer for me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Oli 1 -

          Oops! Farnel £10.75 plus vat - still a lot cheaper than Maplin and branded stock.

        2. Soruk

          Re: @ Oli 1 -

          Thank you for that - I need to replace the batteries in my UPS units!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: China return round trip

        In my experience if you politely tell them you're not satisfied they'll often just send out another one for free.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel that I should tinker around with NFC, I do a bit of hobbyist electronics with various bits and pieces including rpi and Arduino. The thing is, I just can't think of anything useful to do with them - anyone got any ideas?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How 'near field' do these things need to be in order to work? I wonder whether any dodgy crims have thought about creating a NFC receiver (like you get at the till) that is sensitive enough that you could just wander around a packed tube station (or similar), touching it against the wallets in people's back pockets, slurping £10 a time from them? I expect so...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How would they get money from someone else's card? The card doesn't carry the currency.

    2. Stuart Halliday

      About 2cm.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "slurping"

      Sir/madam, you need to read about how credit card payments work. Specifically, you should look up "merchant account".

      What you suggest is not possible. These things have an audit trail.

  6. Vulch


    Maplin include the VAT, RapidNFC don't, so it's nearer a fourpence difference when you account for that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my first thought is that they'll make a great plot device in some episode of "Burn Notice", lets face it NFC activated C4 would be cool :)

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge


      NFC activated C4 would be cool

      You really want to get to within 10cm of the C4 to activate it? A little 'hot' for my taste

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wanted to use NFC to clone my access card for when I forget it.

    A quick google suggested android won't let you do that.

  9. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Key finder?

    If you stuck one to the TV remote, or your keys, or whatever, could you write an app to help you find it?

    I presume the tag doesn't know where it is but if there was any indication of range then you could use your phone as a sniffer. Can anyone with a clue shoot this down before I spend too much time speculating? TIA.

    1. Ambivalous Crowboard

      Re: Key finder?

      Won't work, needs inductive power to activate the tag. No NFC device nearby = no power to power up the tag.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Key finder?

      yes, but ONLY if they're UHF tags as I've personally demoed a trivial UHF read/radar range of around 12 metres but the 868/900MHz UHF isn't NFC. NFC is unfortunately (or fortunately) 13.56MHz which gives you a few centimetres of read-range/radar.

    3. Stuart Halliday

      Re: Key finder?

      Sure. Your phone needs to be within 2cm of it.

      Or buy a high powered scanner about the size of a suitcase to be able to get a range of several meters.

  10. DragonLord

    Proof of ownership hack (superglue the chip in a hard to remove location on valuable property and make a note of the unique numbers)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NFC: No Fscking Chance

    Thanks for the reminder, I got a new bank card a few days ago. Must cut the antenna strip.

  12. 7-zark-7

    No idea if this would work but.......

    I may be missing the ability of NFC tags but going back to a previous topic of robo mowers. What if you stuck(buried just below surface) NFC's all over your lawn and logged the location of each tag. You could use either gps although domestic gps is probably not accurate enough or just manually mow the lawn once so the mower knows which tags are near edges or middle of the lawn etc.

    Once the mower knows which tags are where relative to your lawn area, it will always know where it is. Joining the NFC 'dots' on the lawn, the mower could navigate its way back to any point for charging, emptying etc.

    Just a thought

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: No idea if this would work but.......

      And when the wife complains about the state of the lawn, blame it on the moles. ("Moles lay their mounds out in perfect grids, do they now, dear?")

      But if the tags will last in the ground (protected by a plastic bag?), then this idea has legs. Putting them round the edges would suffice: carry on in a straight line till you hit a tag. The software can make an estimate of when the next tag should show up; and if its not found on schedule it can stop (or sound a siren and plough on to Claire's house).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No idea if this would work but.......

        Good idea but equally suitable for such an application would be a simple wire or small magnets.

  13. breakfast Silver badge

    Rural communications

    Often in yokel country where I reside, it can be a bit tricky to get decent phone signals, so anything that improves communications when near fields could be a boon for farmers.

    1. TheOtherHobbes
  14. The FunkeyGibbon

    I don't suppose...

    NFC could be used to set phones to turn off, say in a Cinema or Theater?

    1. Fletchulence

      Re: I don't suppose...

      The clue is in the "N". So not really.

      Better idea, just set off an EMP while the ads roll.

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: I don't suppose...

      could be done as a tag on the sign near the door on the way into the auditorium.

      but a chain would probably just make it an html link to a page on their website reminding you to turn it off and that snacks and drinks are available in the foyer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        The user would have to configure her device or install a custom app to provide this functionality.

        Otherwise it would be a bit of a security risk that third parties were able to control handsets remotely and at will?

  15. Amorous Cowherder

    I suppose if you have some sort of hobby that involves bits of kit being lent out on a regular basis this might have some use there somewhere but like most things, could end up being tech for tech's sake.

    I could put them inside my young kids clothes so I can find them when they claim they have no idea where the hell they've left them this time?

    "Where's your jumper/shoes/PE kit?"

    Cue blank expression from said child!

  16. Vulch

    Hmmm, security patrols?

    In a former workplace the overnight security guards were supposed to take a walk round the building every so often. Dotted round the place were some sort of tags, and when they did their rounds they carried a reader with them that recorded the time each tag was visited. NFC could replace the daily or weekly download with realtime, and result in a call ("Do you need an alarm clock or assistance?") or visit in case of missed.

    Also geo-caching without suspicious looking boxes in public areas.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wrote this in a previous thread discussing NFC stuff...

    I'll step in here. We use NFC about as much as anyone I know.

    Firstly the content of this article. Several apps exist on google playthat allow the transfer of any file from device to device via NFC. As described in this patent you open the app, select a file and bump devices.

    We also have NFC tags around our house, in the car and in my office. Each tag can be configured to make the phone touching it do upto around 20 functions. Things like volume, setting the alarm, turning wifi/Bluetooth/whatever on or off. You tell your phone what to do when it touches the tag, so each user can configure each tag to do whatever supported function(s) they desire.

    For example on my phone:

    bedroom tag - puts phone on silent and sets alarm if not already set.

    Lounge tag - phone back upto full volume, wifi on if not already.

    Car tag - phone upto full volume, bluetooth turns on, connects to bluetooth in car kit.

    Office tag - turns wifi on if not already on and connects to office wifi


    My wife can set program her phone to do what she wants, I set my phone to do what I want. It's actually pretty decent. Yes as early adopters we were sort of "looking for things we could do". The wife works in the mobile phone industry and i'm in IT so we were both curious. I'm not claiming it's life changing but it's a good indicator that NFC will be used for more things in the future.

    Our local Library (post refit) now uses NFC to track/lend/return all books. You just scan your card, dump books into a booth on the way in/out and it checks the books in/out using NFC.

    That's just what we use NFC for with the limited amount of toys/apps available currently.

    I honestly don't get why so many fellow geeks deride this. It's in V1 still basically. Further uses will crop up down the road. Our local library is now fully NFC based for borrowing/returning books. Works brilliantly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Our local library is now fully NFC based for borrowing/returning books. "

      I have a home collection of over 2000 books - and an awful lot of DVDs. Having a computerised keyword/title database is simple. There are several ways to organise any particular item - and the shelves get re-organised every so often as the emphasis changes or new books are added. So a it needs a label for each item that doesn't depend on a fixed position. Running a NFC phone along the likely shelves would be a good way of locating an identified book whose spine has no visible title, is faded, or hard to read. However the tag price would have come down by a factor of 10 first.

      A more error prone alternative would be NFC readers in each shelf so a book could be registered by a bonk as it is put there.

      ...and no - most of the the library contents aren't available as digital files.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Running a NFC phone along the likely shelves

        I think the operation would me more like

        <bonk book> wait 5 secs ... no.

        shift left

        <bonk book> wait 5 secs ... no.

        shift left

        I can read the titles on the spines faster.

  18. Dave Bell

    short range is good, but...

    There have been reports of longer than expected ranges in payment card situation. Something to be wary of.

    In the case of that mobile phone holder on a car, I would think of where I put the phone when I left the car. Maybe a card with NFC and useful written details slipped into whatever pocket I use.

    But my mobile doesn't use NFC.

    I can imagine uses for the tech in hospitals, but they are not yet electronic enough. If staff used tablets for record keeping, tagging the patient could work well. And it could be more awkward if you have to wave a gadget near a patient's wrist when now you just have to ask for the name.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: short range is good, but...

      "Smart" patient tagging has been available for quite a few years now. While asking a patient's name is the correct, human, way to interact with a patient waving a reader at their wrist does not dehumanise the interaction, instead it's both a labour saving action (as the patient's records can be automatically looked up) but also reduces the likelihood of mis-identification (e.g. multiple "J Smiths"). Anything that double checks a patient's identity to reduce the incidence of potential very unpleasant, or fatal, mistakes is generally a good thing.

      However (passive) NFC is hampered greatly by the wireless signal being blocked by common things such as water (and humans consist of a lot water) and the short range range.

      1. Boring Bob

        Re: short range is good, but...

        Water does not have a great effect on NFC. NFC uses a magnetic field not EM waves (think transformer coupling rather than radio waves). This explains both the short distance it can communicate and how it can transmit sufficient energy to power a micro-controller (NFC can do a lot more than simply read tags). UHF tags use EM waves and so can be read at a long distance, however the energy transmitted is so weak that they can only respond with an ID.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: short range is good, but...

        Asking a patient's name is fine if the patient is in a fit state to answer. For that reason, patients have always worn name tags in hospital, though in the past they would be hand written tags.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: short range is good, but...

      There have been some reports, but I've not seen a credible one, it's just that the burden of proof is on the banks to prove the person alleging miss-use or malfunction is incorrect and most of them never bother, it's just easier that way.

  19. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Looking forward to mine

    Samsung ran a promotion at the end of last month with all new NFC phones: everyone gets a carkit, some covers and a "tec tile" - RFC sticker to do with as you please. Not sure if I move around enough to want a profile switch but I'm looking forward to seeing what is possible. Personally, I like the idea of an NFC and code -based lock system (something you have and something you know) for things like car-sharing.

  20. jonathanb Silver badge

    One use I've found for NFC

    I've set up my phone so that if I tap my Oyster card on it, it loads up an app that tells me how much money is left in it. Probably it would be quicker to just tap the icon on screen though.

    What I would really like to do is to be able to load my Oyster card onto the phone, and tap my phone on the gate to get in and out of the station. Apparently that will be possible at some point in the future.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: One use I've found for NFC

      The apps can't read the encrypted data on the Oyster card, so all they do is get the card number & then connect to the Oyster website to get the balance. You don't actually need the card or NFC to do that, the app could just ask you to enter the card details as part of the setup. Like much of NFC, this is just a gimmick.

      1. *jr*

        Re: One use I've found for NFC

        Thats the Oyster cards problem. The system could write in the clear to a read only space on the card - should there be room -, like many NFC ticketing solutions do already. Or you go all the way and replace the card with NFC phones. And when I say "you" I mean "large government bureaucracy with billions of dollars already invested in a public ticketing system"

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Tilman Ahr

      Re: One use I've found for NFC

      Berlin has a scheme where most U- and S-bahn Stations have nfc tags, for when they don't, you can clock in based on location info from your phone. It even chooses the cheapest combination of individual fares for you. Per day. Fuck week- of even month-long time based tickets. Which is where it gets affordable. And the web site to sign up for it crashed before I could complete the process every time I tried. Not very confidence-inspiring, really. There's a world of possibilities here, but the way it sits right now, it's just bollocks.

  21. graeme leggett Silver badge

    wifi access an

    How about a tag on the counter at the coffee shop. "tap" the tag to get the access code for free wifi.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: wifi access an

      How long would it last before someone replaces it with their own tag which instead gives a password for the ad-hoc network on their laptop at the back of the coffee shop, from where they slurp your contacts list and load up a trojan?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: wifi access an

        >How long would it last before someone replaces it with their own tag

        My understanding from el Reg is that this is already happening with QR codes.

    2. Stuart Halliday

      Re: wifi access an

      How about a tag on a café table?

      Your phone sends the café a text message to say you want some service?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I could stick one on the bog roll dispenser.

    And have it email me after an elapsed time to tell me I've left it in the shitter again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I could stick one on the bog roll dispenser.

      That'll teach you to snap selfies while you're on the bog. Leave the phone in your pocket & you'll have no problems.

  23. Stuart Halliday

    If I could get from Maplin a NFC reader with the ability to switch a relay then these tags could be used as a key.

    Otherwise they're pretty seriously limited to the average DIY Maplineers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      There are plenty of secure wireless entry systems already on the market.

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