How to use NFC to control your home with iOS 13

Posted:
in iOS edited July 8
Apple's Shortcuts app is exceptionally powerful, but it becomes even more useful with the iOS 13 update. It comes preinstalled rather than a post-setup download, and it also arrives brimming with new features. One of the most built-out areas is for the smart home.

The updated Shortcuts app in iOS 13 has more HomeKit automations
The updated Shortcuts app in iOS 13 has more HomeKit automations


There is now a new automation tab right within the Shortcuts app where you can create all the same HomeKit shortcuts you can create in the Home app.

Furthermore, you can now create personal home automations. These are based on your device specifically such as when it connects to a certain Wi-Fi network or enters AirPlane Mode. These triggers can then fire off a HomeKit command.






In simple terms -- tapping an NFC tag with your phone can turn a light on or off. It could trigger a room, certain scenes, and much more. Let's start simple before getting more complicated -- i.e. fun and useful.

Turn on a light with NFC

NFC Tag
Grab these NFC tags on Amazon


Aside from some HomeKit accessories to control, you also need a few NFC tags, otherwise there's nothing to trigger from. NFC tags are cheap -- we picked up this $7 set from Amazon, and this particular type have adhesive backs to easily affix to surfaces.

To trigger a smart home device with NFC, first open the Shortcuts app on iOS 13 and head to new centralized Automation tab, then tap the plus icon to the top-right.

Creating a personal automation
Creating a personal automation


Choose to create a personal automation and venture down to the bottom to the NFC option. After selecting that, tap on "scan" and hold your phone near an NFC tag. It will scan the tag and ask for you to give it a name.

Then tap on the circled plus icon and search for "Control my home" or whatever you've named your home in the Home app. Following that, simply select a scene or accessory that you would like to turn on when you tap the NFC tag.

As it stands, this automation will work. Turn off the light, tap the tag and see your light illuminate. That just leaves us the task of having the light turn off when tapping it again. Luckily, it is a simple change.

Shortcut automation with conditional 'if' statements
Shortcut automation with conditional 'if' statements


Update your automation as we did by inserting an "if statement" into the command, then choose the accessory you are controlling and its state. For our example, ours reads "If Living Room Table Lamp Is On" it will turn the light off. Otherwise, it turns the light on.

The only other thing to change is to toggle off the Ask Before Running option so this command runs in the background without your assistance.

Once you have this command configured and you've tested it, you are ready to go. We do want to give some insight into tag placement as well before we move on.

If you have a table lamp, try placing the NFC tag behind the lampshade. That way the tag is out of sight and you just hold your phone to the edge of the lampshade to get it to turn on.

You could also do it on the underside of a table edge. The tag is still hidden and you just bring your phone up on the edge and that lamp quickly turns on.

More in-depth applications

We can already see the comments coming in below that point out a simple switch does the same thing and isn't so complicated. This is absolutely true. But that was a simplified example and only the beginning.

For just one lamp, you can add additional conditionals to the if statement. Perhaps, if it is after 9AM and before 7PM when it turns on set it to white and 100-percent. After 7PM when the light comes on set it to 80-percent and a warm white.

Or use it to control an entire room. Instead of just the one lamp, a tap could turn on every light in the room. Some of these may be tied to a wall switch, others may be in ceiling fixtures, others are table lamps, but all can be toggled by a tap if they support HomeKit.

Using NFC to control a lamp
Using NFC to control a lamp


We also created a handy rule for when we arrive and leave the home. By hiding an NFC tag right outside the house, as we leave and tap the tag all the lights turn off, the thermostat switches to Away Mode, the door locks, and the blinds close.

We've created this "goodbye" scene using Siri but sometimes it is easier to just tap it with your phone as you walk by rather than having to ask Siri.

Bonus points -- we put this sticker hip level. When we come back from getting groceries and our hands are full, a simple hip-check with our pocketed phone will still let the command run and reverse itself -- switching the home to Home Mode, turning the lights on, and unlocking the door.

Get creative

Using NFC tags are a useful way to control your home with minimal effort. It is a mix between having to use your voice and ask Siri for something and opening the phone and doing it manually through the Home app.

You still have to have your phone out but it doesn't require any digging or voice commands. Sometimes that's all you need.

These are just a few examples of ways we used NFC to automate our home but there are so many more exciting things to try out. Use your imagination and see how NFC and the Shortcuts app can make sense in your home and share your favorite ideas in the comments.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 173member
    Does the background tapping of the NFC tag work on iPhone 7, 8, and X or just on iPhone XS and XR? I can’t find the information on Apple’s dev pages. The iPhone 7, 8 and X all have NFC hardware and can read and write but previously they couldn’t work in the background and I can’f find information on whether that has changed or not.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 19
    jcbigearsjcbigears Posts: 29member
    I’m wondering if it will work with the Apple Watch. 
    MetriacanthosaurusJapheywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 19
    digitoldigitol Posts: 110member
    jdb8167 said:
    Does the background tapping of the NFC tag work on iPhone 7, 8, and X or just on iPhone XS and XR? I can’t find the information on Apple’s dev pages. The iPhone 7, 8 and X all have NFC hardware and can read and write but previously they couldn’t work in the background and I can’f find information on whether that has changed or not.
    Yes will work with “background tapping” on the 7,8 and X. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 19
    eyekeyeyekey Posts: 18member
    digitol said:
    jdb8167 said:
    Does the background tapping of the NFC tag work on iPhone 7, 8, and X or just on iPhone XS and XR? I can’t find the information on Apple’s dev pages. The iPhone 7, 8 and X all have NFC hardware and can read and write but previously they couldn’t work in the background and I can’f find information on whether that has changed or not.
    Yes will work with “background tapping” on the 7,8 and X. 
    Just tested on an 8+. The NFC option is not there in Shortcuts. Seems this does not work.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    jcbigears said:
    I’m wondering if it will work with the Apple Watch. 
    This is the real question. Tapping it with your phone is very dated and more like a tech demo. Using your Apple Watch would make it much more of a lifestyle upgrade. 
    JapheyGeorgeBMaclolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 19
    flyingdpflyingdp Posts: 34member
    The Amazon link to NFC tags is already out of date. Amazon states "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." But a search of the site brings up other packs and alternatives.
    edited July 8 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    ChompChomp Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I’m unable to find this option on the iPhone X.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 19
    igrouchoigroucho Posts: 60member
    Chomp said:
    I’m unable to find this option on the iPhone X.
    But NFC clearly works with an iPX. I use it all the time.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 19
    drucedruce Posts: 1member
    jdb8167 said:
    Does the background tapping of the NFC tag work on iPhone 7, 8, and X or just on iPhone XS and XR? I can’t find the information on Apple’s dev pages. The iPhone 7, 8 and X all have NFC hardware and can read and write but previously they couldn’t work in the background and I can’f find information on whether that has changed or not.
    Just looked this up on Apple’s dev site.  “Background NFC reading” only works on the iPhone XS.  Although other iPhones support NFC, background NFC is only for the XS.  This stinks for me, with an iPhone X, and I just bought a bag of NFC tags.  I guess I will keep them until I get an iPhone 11. 
    https://developer.apple.com/documentation/corenfc/adding_support_for_background_tag_reading

    jdb8167watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 19
    thewbthewb Posts: 74member
    Why tap an NFC tag as you leave or arrive when the Home app already has geofence automation rules? I don't have to do a hip check or anything to turn my lights on when I arrive because the rule already triggered as I turned into my driveway. I have another rule that turns lights off when the last person leaves.

    But I am looking forward to conditionals adding more capability to the automation rules.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    Any chance there is a definitive guide to Homekit devices, with such stats as wireless tech, hub or bridge required, separate app required, etc?  Ideally in tabular form so it's easy to compare.

    I've recently put one of the Satechi outlets in my living room, and I like it a lot.  I did it primarily to mess with my daughter, who stays up all night playing games and watching horror and ghost hunter videos on youtube.  I plan on messing with the lights in the middle of the night.

    However, there's a couple of switches and light bulbs and/or fixtures I wouldn't mind changing as well, as I really like how the Satechi plug works.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 19
    thewb said:
    Why tap an NFC tag as you leave or arrive when the Home app already has geofence automation rules? I don't have to do a hip check or anything to turn my lights on when I arrive because the rule already triggered as I turned into my driveway. I have another rule that turns lights off when the last person leaves.

    But I am looking forward to conditionals adding more capability to the automation rules.
    Because geofencing sucks. It is ridiculously unreliable, does a poor job of handling multiple people, and is not user friendly enough for real world use.

    My wife is not going to walk out the front door with "hopefully the location thing works and everything gets locked/armed". Nope. But she will bump her Apple Watch to the NFC tag and see/hear it all happen instantly.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 13 of 19
    But has anyone tested this with the Apple Watch yet?
    lolliverMetriacanthosauruswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 19
    KompilerKompiler Posts: 1member
    thewb said:
    Why tap an NFC tag as you leave or arrive when the Home app already has geofence automation rules? I don't have to do a hip check or anything to turn my lights on when I arrive because the rule already triggered as I turned into my driveway. I have another rule that turns lights off when the last person leaves.

    But I am looking forward to conditionals adding more capability to the automation rules.
    Because geofencing sucks. It is ridiculously unreliable, does a poor job of handling multiple people, and is not user friendly enough for real world use.

    My wife is not going to walk out the front door with "hopefully the location thing works and everything gets locked/armed". Nope. But she will bump her Apple Watch to the NFC tag and see/hear it all happen instantly.
    Eh, Geofencing works great for me (iPhone X) and I am prompted every time I arrive to "Run" the assigned automation.  But here lies my issue with this - we need the option to automatically run the home automation without user consent.  Hopefully Apple added this feature - can anyone confirm who is running the beta?
    edited July 9 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 19
    LasikieLasikie Posts: 1member
    I can't get this working. It will turn on the light (to 11%?) but won't turn it off if it's on already. Any chance of a step by step guide?
  • Reply 16 of 19
    But has anyone tested this with the Apple Watch yet?
    Yes, this article intrigued me so I bought some NFC tags to test. 
    Does not work with Apple Watch at all from my testing. I'm running watchOS 6 beta on Apple Watch Series 4...so if it worked on anything, it should work on this and it does not.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 19
    cna1406cna1406 Posts: 1member
    What I’m trying to figure out how to do the between times part. There doesn’t seem to be an option to say if it is between these times then do this, otherwise do that. I’m using iOS 13 beta. Anyone got any ideas?
  • Reply 18 of 19
    Lasikie said:
    I can't get this working. It will turn on the light (to 11%?) but won't turn it off if it's on already. Any chance of a step by step guide?
    I agree here.  A step by step guide or video of these steps would be helpful. 
  • Reply 19 of 19
    Running IOS 13.1 public beta. While the automation option is back, when you click on ‘Creat personal Automation’, there is no NFC option.  Any suggestions ???
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