The tech world may be hoping for Apple to unbox some wearable technology in the near future but who cares about the iWatch when an NFC ring is a thing? NFC fans — you know, these sort of folk — hankering for the convenience of having the wireless transfer tech always on their person should point their eyes at this U.K.-based Kickstarter project.
The NFC ring is designed to be used in conjunction with NFC-enabled gadgets — such as smartphones and tablets, NFC door locks and so on — so the wearer can perform tasks such as unlocking their phone, unlocking their front door or sending their contact info, personal website or Bitcoin address to another smartphone user by either fist-bumping or using an open-palm gesture.
Provided you’re happy to wear a bit of bling, the relatively slimline ring gets around some of the awkwardness associated with bumping and grinding NFC phones together to do data transfers (aka ‘phone sex‘). Being passive NFC, it also doesn’t need any battery power to work. And all the programming is done via apps, including third party apps if you want to use it to unlock your phone. The NFC ring creators have also made their own open source software for writing actions to the ring.
The ring actually has two NFC inlays, with a larger ‘public’ area designed to worn at the top for sending things like contact data via a fist bump gesture, and a smaller ‘private’ area designed to be worn so it can be concealed in the palm and only activated via an open palm gesture. This area is intended to store more sensitive data such as front door and phone unlocking info, says creator John McLear.
The dual NFC design is intended to help keep a ring owner’s most sensitive data from being slurped by nearby NFC readers. But it’s worth pointing out that jewellery rarely stays put so NFC ring bearers are likely to end up spending a lot of time checking their precious is correctly aligned. Or drunkenly failing to send contact info to the person they are trying to chat up in the bar, and trying to unlock a non-existent front door instead. That’s a whole new level of geek faux pas.
The NFC ring is basically a more convenient (i.e. wearable) version of the NFC tags that are sometimes shipped with NFC smartphones. But since awkwardness is a barrier to more widespread NFC use, anything that helps reduces friction is a welcome development for the contactless fraternity.
The NFC ring is fast approaching its Kickstarter funding goal of £30,000 — with close to 1,100 backers pledging almost £29,500 so far with 27 days left on the campaign. The creators say rings are due to ship in late October, if all goes to plan. Cost per ring is around £25/$38 but the creators have also released a CAD design so the basic ring form can be hacked, customised and 3D printed. They are then offering cheaper pledges to just ship the NFC inlay for fixing inside these 3D printed rings.
It’s worth flagging that the “normal size ring” (which is ~7mm wide) doesn’t work with all NFC phones — notably the Samsung Galaxy S4 and BlackBerry Z10 won’t play nice. For those devices the creators warn “you will need an alpha size ring”, which they add is “really only for chaps with big fingers”.