They’re more common than you think!
NFC tags, or Near Field Communication tags, are small chips that can be embedded into a variety of products and materials. These tags contain a small amount of data that can be accessed by a device equipped with NFC technology (i.e. an “NFC reader”). Years ago those had to be external peripherals and devices. Today NFC reading comes pre-installed like Bluetooth in all modern smartphones.
The technology works by allowing two devices to communicate with each other when they are brought within close proximity, usually within a few inches. This is made possible by the NFC antenna in the device, which sends and receives signals to and from the NFC tag. When an NFC-enabled device is brought close to an NFC tag, it can read the data stored on the tag and use it to perform an action or access information.
One of the main reasons NFC tags are important is because they allow for easy and convenient communication between devices. With just a tap or swipe, users can quickly access information or perform an action. This can be especially useful for things like making payments, accessing event tickets, or even unlocking doors.
NFC tags are becoming increasingly popular in consumer products, and many brands are including them in their product lines. Recent examples include the latest phygital art collectible by internationally renowned artist KAWS, a line of NFC-tagged clothes by NBCUniversal around their Universal Studios ‘Monsters’ IP and an entire line of fashion items from Nike subsidiary RTFKT (among which are of course both the NFC-equipped Nike Air Force 1s as well as the revolutionary new CryptoKicks iRLs).
Adidas has incorporated NFC tags into some of its sneakers in the past, allowing users to access exclusive content and experiences in a similar way while Funko, a popular collectible toy company, has implemented NFC technology into certain Funko Pop! figures that can be scanned to unlock digital content, exclusive videos or character bios. Hasbro has lines of toys with integrated NFC tags including Nerf blasters and licensed master toy lines for the likes of Jurassic World. Gucci and Louis Vitton have produced such products as well, the former for several of its high-end handbags and accessories (making exclusive content and experiences accessible through the Gucci app) and the latter mostly for provenance.
Sometimes whichever company or brand equipped the NFC tag in your physical item will have preloaded it with a URL. If that is the case, usually you need just bring your phone close to the tag and it will automatically load the URL in your smartphone’s default web browser (just like reading a QR code). Be advised that every phone has the NFC antenna in a slightly different location, for example in the iPhone it is usually at the top of the phone, on the back, where the camera lenses are located. Move your phone around until the tag is recognized.
If you need to access other data, like the ID or Serial Number, you can use a free app like NFC Tools (download: iOS, Android).
[We are not affiliated with the developers but do use this app for our own needs]
Just open the app, click the “Read” button and bring your phone close to the item. The information from the NFC tag will load automatically. Here is information displayed from a Nintendo Amiibo figurine (note that the unique Serial Number has colons “:” in it but that isn’t the case everywhere):
One of the biggest benefits of NFC tags is their versatility. They can be embedded into a wide range of materials, including plastic, paper, and even fabric. This means that they can be used in a variety of products, from sneakers and toys to handbags and event tickets, which is why we will likely see much more of them over the coming years.
Causality is creating the API for the physical world. Follow us on Twitter and prepare for an alpha soft launch in Q1 2023!