Beginning NFC: Near Field Communication with Arduino, Android, and PhoneGap

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Beginning NFC: Near Field Communication with Arduino, Android, and PhoneGap by Tom Igoe

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This book started life innocently enough in an email from Brian to Tom in March 2011. Brian thought it would be a good idea to add a couple of lines to the second edition of another book about near field communication, Making Things Talk, which we were working on at the time. There was already a chapter on radio frequency identification (RFID) in the book, so how hard could it be? Two and a half years later, we’ve learned a lot about NFC along the way and picked up an excellent and knowledgeable collaborator, Don Coleman, author of the NFC plug-in for PhoneGap.


Even though NFC has a lot of potential, most of the material written about it so far hasn’t been written for the casual programmer. Everything out there assumed that if you wanted to know about NFC, you were prepared to do it from the silicon up. You had to understand the details of the various RFID specs involved, and you had to be prepared to write code that interpreted the byte stream from an NFC reader one byte at a time. While it’s useful to understand that, we figured NFC would see wider use if programmers could concentrate on what they were using it for, rather than the low-level details. Don’s PhoneGap library was the best tool we found to do just that. It lets you design NFC exchanges in the way we imagine the NFC forum designers intended: you think about the messages being exchanged and don’t worry about the rest.


Most of this book is written in that spirit. You’ll learn about the basics of the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) by reading and writing messages from device to tag and from device to device. You’ll see a few sample applications—some written for PhoneGap, some for Arduino, and some for Node.js—running on embedded devices like the Raspberry Pi and the BeagleBone Black. You’ll learn some of the use patterns of NDEF, and you’ll get a taste of how you might think about the physical interaction of NFC-driven applications.


The state of the art varies from platform to platform, however. Not everything that the NFC Forum specifications describe is accessible to the casual programmer on every platform yet. We’ve attempted to give you a roadmap in this book, particularly in the later chapters, as to what the current state of development is, and where there is still room for usability improvement.


We hope that this book will help the casual programmer get a sense of what can be done using NFC, and that it will inspire more professional developers to create simple-to-use tools to help spread its use.


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