The NFC Ring is back with a new Kickstarter campaign, an updated look and improved tech under the hood… or I guess I should say under the band since it’s a ring. Smartphones are cool and smart watches may be fun, but a smart ring is the ultimate in geek gear. Let’s check out what’s new with one of my favorite wearable gadgets.
Note: Click images for a large view
First of all, you might be familiar with NFC (Near Field Communication) if you’ve purchased a new Bluetooth speaker in the last year or so. Many of the latest speakers now feature an NFC tag that you can use to easily pair the speaker with your smartphone using a simple tap. But, you might not know that there’s much more you can do with NFC. By programming NFC tags, you can automate tasks such as unlocking your phone, doors, sending SMS messages, and much more.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to review the original NFC Ring. You can see it in the image above on the left, and the new improved NFC Ring 2016 is the one on the right.
The new NFC Ring is made of an advanced Ceramic instead of Titanium and is water resistant up to 50 meters (164 feet). I was sent the Horizon version which is black with a transparent window over one of the NFC tags. If you look closely, you can see the antenna coil for the NFC tag in the image above. The newly updated NFC Ring’s read distance has been increased by at least 3 times more than the original NFC Ring.
The Kickstarter project will also offer another version of the ring that has a carbon fiber band over one NFC tag. Stretch goals will allow for additional styles.
A second NFC tag is directly opposite on the bottom of the ring. The idea, just like with the first generation of the NFC Ring, is that you have a public tag on one side of the ring and a private tag on the other. You can make a fist to use the forward facing tag and use your open hand/palm to use the private / hidden tag. I was a little worried that the improved working distance would cause issues when holding my phone in the hand wearing the ring. But so far I’ve not had any issues with the ring triggering a tag when I didn’t want it to.
The inside of the ring is etched with the NFC Ring logo. This helps you feel how the ring is oriented on your finger without really having to look at it. Just slide the ring to the tip of your finger and rotate till you feel the etching. Slide it back on and the public tag will be on top. Of course if you’d rather have the public tag be the side with the visible tag, you can do that too. It’s completely up to you.
The new size and ceramic material make the NFC Ring look a lot nicer than the first version in my opinion.
I found the new ring to be more comfortable to wear too. The slick ceramic tends to stick to your finger so it won’t rotate, which is a good thing since the tags will always be lined up correctly when you need to use them.
The NFC Ring has to be programmed in order take advantage of all its geeky goodness. Programming is done using the NFC Ring Control app or any other NFC tag writing app. The NFC Ring Control app will let you do simple things like program the tag with a web link, text, vCard, link to a Twitter user, link to a Facebook page, Youtube video or channel, or Etherpad link. The storage has been increased 7 times with this new version of the ring (888 bytes of user-accessible storage), so if you want to do something a little more fancy, you’ll need to use other NFC tag writing apps like my favorites, NFC Tools and NFC Tasks.
Another app that you can use will program one of the tags in the ring so that it can be used to unlock your phone without having to swipe, use a PIN number or have the phone rooted. I thought this would be the greatest thing ever, but ended up programming the tags to do other things like send a text message to Jeanne when I get home from work and I have the other tag programmed to launch Pandora, wait 10 seconds and then call Jeanne at work. Yes, with NFC Tasks you can stack a bunch of commands onto one tag. It’s awesome!
What about privacy and security? Here’s what they say:
We wouldn’t be coming to Kickstarter if these were the only improvements, though. The new tags now support locking: either flip a bit or, for added security, set your own passcode and the data on your ring is safe from being overwritten – either accidentally or maliciously. The new tags also include an interaction counter: if you’ve ever wanted to know how many people you gave your contact details to at an event, we’ve got you covered.
I’m really happy with the updates they’ve done to the NFC Ring 2016. It’s made very well and should last for many years. Having a ring on your finger that can be programmed and reprogrammed (over 100,000 times) to automate often performed tasks and send bits of data is a lot of fun to play with and useful too.
The Kickstarter campaign for the NFC Ring 2016 is seeking £50,000 ($75,676 US) with an estimated delivery in December if successfully funded.