Shortcuts and NFC tags
The first NFC tag support came from the application Launch Centre Pro. This was before NFC was properly launched systemwide on iOS. These are pretty little NFC tags with a picture of rocket on the front. At the time and they only worked with Launch Centre Pro which could be configured to run shortcuts. Since iOS 13 came out we can now read NFC tags directly into Shortcuts.
Getting started with Shortcuts
The first problem to solve with NFC stickers is to decide what shortcuts to run from an NFC tag. My first one I set up with Launch Centre Pro ran a shortcut called Drivetime in my car. This opened up the applications Leaf Spy Pro and Waze followed by podcast audio and a short spoken message. This perfectly set up my driving experience in my electric car. However, I no longer use this NFC tag. This is due to the inclusion of another trigger in shortcuts iOS 13. I can trigger the same set of actions just by connecting to Apple Carplay.
Next Steps with Shortcuts
So I bought another 10 NFC sticker tags and a bunch of NFC keyring type tags. For two or three weeks I didn’t really do anything with them. I needed to sit down and have a think which shortcuts would be best used with NFC triggers. I got busy with other things and the NFC thing wasn’t urgent.
This morning I finally set up a number of NFC triggers. I found out it was possible to set a television watching scene with NFC. Not only can I set the lights just as I want them, I can also turn on the television and set the Apple television to the desired application. I can choose whether I want Netflix, Amazon prime video or YouTube. I could even set it to one of the games. There is an action within the Shortcuts application to connect to the remote for the Apple TV. It activates the Apple TV and switches to the required application. I have set up three NFC tags, one to open up Netflix, another to open up Amazon Prime Video and another one for YouTube. I should also set up another one to go into Apple TV plus. With the lighting I turn everything off except the corner lamp which I set to 60% brightness. The room goes into cinema mode. The television is turned on using a HomeKit plug socket. I used to control that using an Amazon echo Wi-Fi plug socket. I found I have a couple more options by keeping it within the Apple universe. The NFC tags are stuck to the coffee table in front of the sofa. I can easily touch the phone to the tags without having to move. Another option I’m looking into to assist my laziness is to get an Apple HomePod. I can use my voice to get things happening without having to pick up my iPhone.
It’s not perfect yet
When I was trying to set up these shortcuts I ran into a problem. I was choosing an action to ‘set’ HomeKit properties. For the life of me I couldn’t work out why the shortcut wasn’t working. Instead of choosing set I should have gone with run. I had to look into a previous shortcut which was working to find out where I had gone wrong. It was a good job I had a previous shortcut in which I’ve chosen the correct action.
I can use these NFC tags myself, but my wife who is using an older iPhone isn’t able to. This isn’t going to change in the near future. We will have to wait until I buy my next iPhone and that might not be until next year or even the year after.
Other NFC triggered shortcuts
I have put an NFC tag at the front door. It is actually stuck to the front door just above the handle. It is a white door and a white tag. You would hardly notice its presence. I have set it up so that it runs a HomeKit scene. Basically, all it does is switch off all the lights and appliances in the house. I can’t use it when my wife is still inside. It is just for when I leave the house and I’m the last one to leave. There is another automation trigger available based on who is the last person to leave the house. The advantage of using the NFC tag is that the shortcut also gives a message reminding me to lock the door. When I’m leaving the house via the garage is when the last person leaving trigger comes into play. I could get short cuts to say something else to me instead.
Applications donating shortcuts actions
It took a while to set up the shortcut for leaving the house. I wanted it to use a particular Home scene called I’m leaving. When I was looking for the shortcuts action for this scene it wasn’t available. I had to go into the Home application and use the scene manually a couple of times. Only then did the Home application donate the action to shortcuts. Up until then it was only showing me the shortcut actions I was using to set up the NFC tags for the television. Hopefully in the future Shortcuts will have better integration with other Apple applications. It really should do already!
Other NFC options
I drive an electric vehicle, a Nissan Leaf. Occasionally I need to top up the battery away from home. To do this I often need to use an RFID card to activate the charging point. I have quite a few of these RFID cards. An RFID card is basically an NFC tag. So I have set it up so I can scan an RFID card and use it to start an application on my iPhone. An application I use regularly is PlugShare. This tells me where the charging points are. I can check in to a charging point using the PlugShare app to let other PlugShare users now it is being used. I can submit how long I expect to be using the charger for. I have the RFID card in my hand and it is easily done to tap my phone onto the card and open up the PlugShare application.
Another type of RFID card is a debit or credit card. You could scan your bankcard and use it to open the banking application on your phone.
Using the rest of my NFC tags
I have one of the key ring type tags on my keyring. These are available in different colours. The white one I have on there at present is set up to run the shortcut for the car. I’ll have to have a think about setting up other shortcuts suitable for connecting to these keyring tags.
Shortcuts is great for automation
Sitting In My car being Good and Geeky
I started this article watching it in Drafts using Dragon dictation on my Mac. It’s a bit of a cold day here on the Costa Brava and I had to go out in my car to the post office. I collected a package containing amongst other things another Hue lightbulb and a motion sensor. For my next track I went to the nearest charging point for the car. It is free to use with an RF ID card. It’s next to a supermarket if I need to go in and collect some bits and pieces. It is also quite a good place to stop and get some work done while plugged in. My car has a heater in the seats to keep me warm.
So I am comfortable sitting in the passenger seat with my iPad and I am editing the document using both the keyboard and also Voice Control. Voice Control is remarkably accurate for dictation, it also has editing commands to use with the voice. It’s amazing the amount of work you can get done talking to your iPad in your car.