Sunday, March 24, 2013

NFC, Android and Motorbikes

I recently switched from an iPhone 5 to an Android Nexus 4. After a week or so I am really enjoying it. My main issue has been battery life: I could comfortably get 2 days use out of my iPhone, and although I can do that now with the Nexus I had to do a bit of work to get it.

Using Tasker to turn data and syncing on every 30 minutes made a big difference, as did turning off a lot of the Google services in the Auto Sync settings. Tasker will turn the data back on when I activate the screen, so if I want to use the phone to check email or use Maps then it doesn't get in my way, but it will not kill the battery with lots of constant background data syncing during the day.

One of the things I also want to do with Tasker is to have the phone auto reply to SMS messages and missed calls while I'm riding my motorbike. This wasn't possible on the iPhone - although maybe if it's Jailbroken - but is relatively easy to set up on Android using Tasker.

 I have two Tasker tasks, one to set a %BIKE variable to 'true', and another to set it to 'false', which are my getting on and off the bike tasks. I then have a Tasker profile, triggered by receiving an SMS when %BIKE is 'true', that sends an SMS reply to tell them I'm busy, and a similar one for a missed call.

This is all very nice, but I'm left with having to manually run the two Tasker tasks to set and unset the %BIKE value, which I wasn't that pleased with. I could get Tasker to use the GPS to regularly check my speed and guess whether I'm on the bike or not, but that seemed a bit hit and miss, and potentially a bit of a battery killer.

Then I came across this Lifehacker post about automating your life with NFC cards, and that seemed like a better way to trigger my 'On the bike' and 'Off the bike' modes. So, I ordered a set of NFC stickers from and downloaded NFC Retag Free, which allows you to assign actions to NFC tags - in this case I just had it run my Tasker tasks.

So now it's just a matter of putting NFC stickers somewhere on the bike where they hopefully won't get too rained on:

And so now when I get on the bike I tap the phone against the sticker on the screen and it sets my auto SMS reply mode up for me:

I also need another sticker on the bike to deactivate the bike mode, but as most of my riding is commuting then the NFC stickers at home and work can unset that mode as well as their other tasks, so as long as I tap into home and work then it will all work.

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