Near Field Communication (NFC) is a technology that's just oozing with potential. Though the mainstream adoption of near-field communication hasn't exactly gone as planned, that doesn't mean that NFC isn't still a fertile ground for great products. One upcoming product, the NFC Ring, is an example of the kinds of imaginative projects that could become more widespread a few years down the road.
The NFC Ring is exactly what its name suggests. The creation of developer and self-described "jolly hacker" John McLear, the NFC Ring is a piece of finger jewelry with a couple of NFC inlays inside.
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Okay, so you have a ring with some fancy-schmancy new technology inside of it. So what?
Well, one potential use is if you buy an NFC-equipped door lock such as the Lockitron. Then you can unlock your door without any keys or smartphone in sight. Just raise your hand (or finger) to the sensor, listen for the click, and enter your home with the jewelry acting as the key.
Another potentially cool use for the NFC Ring is to unlock something much smaller: your smartphone. If you have an NFC-enabled phone like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One (just two examples of many), then you can download an app that will let you unlock your phone with ease and security. Tap your ring finger on the back of your phone, and enjoy passcode protection without the hassle of entering a passcode.
If you add NFC tags and NFC-enabled phones into the mix, you could program your ring to do about a million other things, ranging from opening specific apps or composing messages, to sharing your Wi-Fi network or your personal URL. If NFC ever finds the widespread adoption some had expected by now, those possibilities will only multiply.
Safe in hand
While a great idea in itself, maybe the most brilliant thing about the NFC Ring is its approach to security. The ring actually has two NFC inlays onboard, one for public information (like your Twitter handle or email address), and one for private info (like the lock to your door, payment info, or your phone's passcode).
As you see in the above illustration, the private inlay is smaller, and designed to rest on the inside (palm side) of your ring finger. This gives you much greater control over that info as it requires a deliberate palm-facing gesture to transmit the secure info to another NFC device.
There's something instinctual about this approach. Clutch your hand in a fist, and your private information is locked tight. Open your hand and face your palm outwards, and you share it with those you trust. Users will just have to be careful that the ring doesn't rotate on their finger so that the wrong side is facing out.
We haven't yet put the NFC Ring through the paces, but the project's Kickstarter page reveals an inventor who's committed to his craft, and has thought deeply about the details. McLear will even send you the NFC overlays and schematics for you to 3D print your own, if that's your thing. Having already collected £25,684 (US$39,500) in pledges towards its £30,000 (US$46,000) goal, the NFC Ring looks like a sure bet to get funded.
You can check out the Kickstarter video pitch below.