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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

NFC: The coolest tech you aren't using

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM

There was buzz at CEDIA last year surrounding NFC – Near Field Communication – technology causing one publication to call it one of the “Top 5 Home Technologies for 2012” claiming it “could be the next big thing in home automation” and described as “living in the future” by The Wall Street Journal.

Crestron said that NFC brought “new meaning to the term ‘personal space’” and even demonstrated the technology – calling it airConnect – in their massive kingdom booth at CEDIA. At the show, booth visitors could try out the tech and unlock doors and start playing music just by waving a smart phone over an embedded NFC tag,

The descriptions of what NFC or airConnect (to-may-to, to-mah-to) can do are certainly impressive. It “enables…customers to trigger personal settings on a room-by-room basis for lighting, temperature, shades, entertainment systems or any other devices connected to the control system when their smart phone is in proximity of the specially programmed NFC tag. The paper-thin tags, approximately one square-inch in size, can easily be embedded in convenient and multiple locations, such as behind wall keypads and faceplates.”

Further, unlike many of the other great and cool new things that come along, NFC is cheap. Like crazy cheap. NFC tags require no batteries, wiring or other special installation other than literally sticking them somewhere and cost about $1 each. Wave your device (phone or tablet) over a tag and it draws power from the device, executes a quick security key “handshake” and then…performs magic, making “it possible to instantaneously know who a user is, where they are, the device they are interacting with, and take automatic action accordingly, opening up a wide array of options In personalized control that were not previously feasible. Homeowners can trigger personalized control settings, including music presets, lighting levels, room temperature, shade positions, and more, when their smart device is within proximity of the NFC tag.”

Plus, integration is a breeze. Fred Bargetzi, Crestron’s VP of Technology, commented, "For existing customers, implementing airConnect requires no system reprogramming, just programming of the NFC tags, which can be done in minutes. And homeowners will be able to easily program their own settings on their smart devices."

Crestron isn’t the only automation company that has seen the potential of NFC.

Control4’s VP of Security & Communications Products, Paul Williams, stated, “We’ve been looking at [NFC] as an emerging technology, one of the things we’ve been paying attention to. We are looking for a completely automated environment; a specific person at a specific location in a home or space then the system has enough intelligence to act on it. Depending on time of day, and location and who is around the person, etc. That would be Nirvana for automation. Every time I enter the room I want the music playing this genre at this volume and at this light level and temperature. To have that kind of experience for a consumer would be really cool, and that is the kind of environment that we are looking to achieve. We can do that now with button presses, but NFC is one of the technologies that we’ve looked at to accomplish this.”

For convenience sake, simply pulling out a phone and brushing it past a designated NFC tag location to trigger some automated event seems like a pretty powerful automation solution.

So, if this is so cool and affordable, why aren’t you using it? And, more importantly, why aren’t we hearing any more about it? Did NFC die before it even got started?

I reached out to both Crestron and Control4 for a conversation on their thoughts on the technology and what their plans are and their answers might interest you.

In short, both companies commented that while they see the technology as having a lot of potential and that they are watching it closely, there’s one major problem...

Click here to read about NFC's major drawback at Residential Systems...

Categories: March 2013, Electronics

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