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Tech Watch: Near-Field Communications (NFC) at Home

March 12, 2013 | Comments

Wall-mounted keypads, tabletop controllers and handheld remotes are still the standard bearers when it comes to controlling home-automation systems, but voice and other non-traditional forms of control are slowly entering into the picture and will see significant innovation over the next several years.

"The shift to a post-PC world where computing resides in our phones, TVs, tablets, and cars will drive the adoption of gesture, multi-touch and voice interfaces," explains Chris Carbone, futurist and director of insights and research at Innovaro, who points to leading-edge products like Leap and the new generation of smart TVs as early examples.

Up-and-coming voice control technologies are another indicator of the trend.

Using iPhones and iPads for home control is nothing new. But what if you could tap your smartphone on a tiny tag on your wall to trigger a series of control commands for A/V components and other devices connected to your central home-automation system? Tapping your phone on the tag, which might be hidden behind a light-switch cover, could create a specific mood as you walk into living room after a long day at work: Blinds close, the lights come on and dim to a mellow glow, your favorite satellite radio channel starts playing and ESPN appears on the TV screen with the volume muted.

Even better, personalized settings can be stored for each family member so when Mom taps her phone on the NFC tag, SiriusXM's Coffee House channel comes up instead of Dad's fave, Radio Margaritaville.

The technology exists and was demonstrated at CEDIA EXPO 2012. It's enabled by the same Near-Field Communications (NFC) technology used for apps such as Google Wallet, which enables you to store encrypted credit-card information in your phone and pay for your Starbucks without having to pull out your debit card or cash. Launch the app, select the credit or debit card you want to use, tap the back of your phone on the NFC terminal and a transaction confirmation appears on screen seconds later.

One issue facing widespread implementation of NFC is that, so far, the technology is only available on Android and BlackBerry phones. Apple has yet to include NFC on the iPhone. Maybe the iPhone 6?

For more on integrating cutting-edge technologies into your home, consult a professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.