NFC tags control your home’s lighting

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Here’s a home lighting hack that doesn’t require you to think about it after the initial setup. Instead of requiring the user to launch an app and select a lighting state, it uses NFC tags to select a lighting configuration. The tags can be placed in different parts of the house so that setting your phone on the table beside the door while putting your coat on will turn everything in the house off. Of course you need to crawl before you can walk so right now this proof-of-concept only switches the Phillips HUE bulb in the desk lamp.

That bulb is compatible with the Ninja Blocks system — but a Ninja Block or an Arduino with an Ethernet shield could be used to switch whatever you wish. The Ninja client code is an integral part of the system which is why the hardware side needs to relate to the platform. Also used is the On{X} service which bridges the gap between your Android phone and the home automation hardware. Once that is in place it’s only a matter of programming the NFC tags to do as you wish. Don’t miss a demo of this in the clip after the jump.

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Electronically controlled NFC tag

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[Per] is replacing his car stereo with a Nexus 7 tablet. It’s a great modification to add GPS, navigation, and a good music player, but [Per] wanted to pause his tunes and tell the tablet to go to sleep with an NFC tag. This means building a an NFC tag he can turn on and off, an interesting problem to say the least.

The easiest way to do this is with a CMOS switch, but a chip like a 74HC4066 is overkill for a project this simple. What [Per] needed was a single CMOS switch, something he found and fabbed a board for.

Now, with a press of a button, [Per] can activate his NFC tag and pause the music in his new stereo. Check out the video of this electronically controllable tag after the break.

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Gumball machine delivers ebooks and games to your phone

Instead of rock-hard bubble gum that loses its flavor after 2 minutes, this gumball machine delivers apps and games directly to your smartphone.

The communications protocol used by this app-delivering gumball machine isn’t bluetooth or WiFi but near field communication. This protocol allows for a point-to-point network between the app dispenser and a phone to deliver games, music, videos, and ebooks to any compatible portable device.

The hardware for the gumball machine is a Galaxy Tab, an Adafruit NFC shield, two Arduinos, and a few switches and other components stuffed into an old gumball machine. To get purchase an app, just put a quarter or two in the machine, turn the crank, and put your phone up against the dispenser. Through the magic of near field communications, you phone or tablet receives whatever media you purchased.

Near field communication has been a standard for a while, but hasn’t been available in most phones. With oracles of Apple speculating the upcoming iPhone will have NFC capability other phone manufacturers are sure to pick up the tech. Very cool project, and we can’t wait to see some truly home-brew versions of this build.

Vidia after the break.

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Live CD for RFID hacking on the go

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[Milosch] wrote in to tell us that he has recently released a bootable RFID live hacking system – something he has been diligently working on for quite some time. The live distro can be used for breaking and analyzing MIFARE RFID cards, as well as a reasonable selection of other well-known card formats. The release is based off the Fedora 15 live desktop system, and includes a long list of RFID hacking tools, as well as some applications that allow for NFC tag emulation.

His toolkit also contains a baudline-based LF RFID sniffer package, allowing for a real-time waveform display of low frequency RFID tags. The LF sniffer makes use of a cheap USB sound card, as well as a relatively simple reader constructed from a handful of easy to find components.

We have seen some of [Milosch’s] handiwork before, so we are fairly confident that his toolkit contains just about everything you need to start sniffing and hacking RFID tags. If you’re interested in grabbing a copy of the ISO, just be aware that the live CD is only compatible with 64-bit systems, so older laptops need not apply.

Low-cost, low-bandwidth wireless Arduino to Android communications

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[Joe] was experimenting with his Arduino when he started thinking about how he could get it to communicate wirelessly with his Android phone. Bluetooth is an option, but it requires some extra components, and Google’s ADK works as well – just not wirelessly.

Instead, he thought it would be neat to see if he could get the two devices to communicate with a simple magnetic coil. He constructed a small 1cm diameter coil, connecting it to the Arduino via a resistor and diode. Using the Android Tricorder app, he was able to locate his phone’s magnetometer, after which he ran some tests to narrow down the best sample rate and frequency range for communications.

To transfer data between the two devices, he had to bit bang the signal in software, since the Arduino’s UART has a lower limit far faster than the 7 bps data rate he was able to achieve with the magnetometer.

While his wireless Arduino to Android bridge isn’t likely to win any awards for throughput, it is a great proof of concept project. Be sure to check out the video below to see his “poor man’s NFC” in action.

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FareBot – Android NFC Proof of Concept

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Upon learning that the Nexus S smartphone was equipped with a Near Field Communications NFC) radio, [Eric Butler] decided he would put the newly released Gingerbread SDK to good use.  Focusing initially on ORCA fare cards used by several Washington state transit systems, he built an open-source application he calls FareBot, which can read data from any MIFARE DESFire branded cards.  Utilizing the NFC radio in the Nexus S, he was able to dump all of the unprotected information from the fare cards, including  the remaining card balance and the last 10 locations where the card was used.

The author hopes that his proof of concept application encourages other developers to expand on his project and to explore the data stored on transit cards around the world. While it is in its early stages, [Eric] would ultimately like to see this project expanded to allow the use of NFC-enabled smartphones as transit cards themselves via downloadable apps.  He suggests that helping people understand the amount of data which can be freely obtained from these cards will eventually force the manufacturers to better inform consumers of the existing system’s shortcomings, which in turn might spur on smartphone-based transit initiatives.