RFID Controlled Phone Dialing


In an attempt to create an easier to use interface for the elderly, [Stephen] has put together this phone prototype which uses RFID tags to dial. It is common for our motor skills and eyesight to deteriorate as we get older. There are special phones out there, but generally the only changes they make are enlarged buttons and louder speakers. [Stephen] had the idea to make a system where an elderly person would hold up a picture of the person to the phone and it would dial. He picked up an RFID card reader and an Arduino. The code for the RFID reader was already available, and with minor modifications to prevent multiple swipes from hand tremors or slow movements, he was able to get it working pretty fast. The Arduino then sends the data to an ioBridge to make the call.He’s using Google voice to physically place the call, so you could probably adapt this to other services as well. You can see a video of it in action after the break.


[Stephen] points out that even though he’s using an iPhone in the video, this project should really work with any two phones.

19 thoughts on “RFID Controlled Phone Dialing

  1. that’s a pretty nice idea. it really wouldn’t take much effort to make this work with any landline phone – just plug a wedge in between the handset and the main body and generate dialtones for whichever person’s number gets waved near the phone.

  2. Finally we might have a practical use for RFID!

    In a quick overlook of the write up I did not see how he encoded the RFID tag; a simple solution for home users might also be helpful.

    If it could be miniaturized like the shuffle and be incorporated into a more discrete module, like a custom handset that runs off of the DC phone line line power, it might find practical uses for more than just the elderly.

    Retraining our habitual behavior to not pick up the phone before we dial… might be the real challenge in this.

  3. you wouldn’t even need a wedge probably, most cordless phones now have headset jacks. just plug it into the headset jack, then a headset into the module. So, they wave the tag, it dials, and then connects the headset.

    option 2, would just be stuff it inside the phone hardwired. Which I guess would be the best option ^_^

  4. Brilliant. God I wish I could have been this age when my grandmother had a massive stroke at age 72 and deteriorated for 15 years thereafter.

    It’s almost like the markets for the elderly, the one-armed, the no-armed, the blind etc are just too small for anyone truly innovative (other than Ben Heck) to jump in and do something great for these people.

    And their world really -is- way less accessible than the world those of us lucky enough to be fully able live in. Anyone want to start an LLC that specializes in think-tanking for these tasks? :P

  5. This could also be a legitimate use of AR markers: hold up a marker to a webcam, it dials a number. Though I know not every elderly person is comfortable with having a computer sitting around… maybe it would work better with an iPhone app and face recognition: you point the camera at an image of who you want to call, and it calls that person.

  6. I really like the project and I think it could be turned into a very useful product. Like others have said, it should be something that does the dialing by itself, instead of relying on other services that add a layer of complexity.

    RFID seems like a better solution than image/face recognition, just because it’s easier to use and less finicky – a requirement for things like this.

  7. In thinking about this more, I had these thoughts:

    1) make the device to dial native (with out that extra phone service.)

    2) use the current pattern method for dialing; pick up phone, scan rfid, rfid thing dials the scanned number, success!

    3) ship it with 3 generic looking “police” “fire” “poison control” tags which the setup person can program to the local numbers.

    4) needs a simple programing interface and card index.

    5) maybe needs some kind of security to avoid malicious re-programing?

    Re-design of concept idea:
    Eliminate the rfid and make a video screen with pictures that can be taken with a small digital camera on the device that could take photos of anything the person holds up, up/down arrows and an enter button to select, an add button with numbers to go with it; like a very simplified cell phone stored number directory with bigger buttons and bigger photos. It might just need a flash card to operate/store the information, maybe a backup that is only accessed when a number is added/updated. Different, but not all better.

  8. @terrence, it is because it uses a web service (Google Voice) which basically is setting up something like a 3-way call from it’s server. It calls the party requesting the call to bring them into the conference and then it calls the one pictured on the RFID.

    That way a web service does all the thinking and you can easily program it on behalf of your aging grandparents from your own home. If one of their friends moves or dies, you can keep them from making embarrassing mistakes and reduce the potential aggravation that they may have (which would limit their willingness to use the system).

    Like mentioned above, retraining them to not pick up until the phone rings and to be patient for the ring after might be the hardest part of the entire thing. If you could rig up a phone to anounce “dialing” when ever Google Voice calls and automatically turn on a speakerphone instead, that might be a good step to improving usability.

    That said, this is a really great idea.

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