Using NFC Tags to Create Talking Lables


In this video, we will look at using NFC Tags and an iPhone to create talking labels using cheap, readily available NFC tags.

In this video we’ll cover

  • We will show you how to use Simply NFC to Read and Write NFC Tags
  • Use a Siri Shortcut to read NFC Tags
  • Using Speak Screen selection as an alternative to Voiceover
  • What is an NFC Tag
  • What does NTAG/NFC215 mean
  • What sort of information can you store on a NFC Tag (NDEF)

What is an NFC Tag

NFC Stands for Near Field Communications. They are a small, flat device that stores information, like a digital label. It works by using short-range wireless technology to communicate with compatible devices, such as smartphones or tablets. When you tap your device near the NFC tag, it instantly shows the stored information. NFC tags have a wide variety of applications, including contactless payments, event information, unlocking security locks, and connecting to wifi networks.

NFC tags can be used to label anything from food packaging, CDs, Medication, anything that you can stick a 1cm square plastic label on, they’re available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

The NFC tags I’m using are available from Amazon and are NFC215 tags. NFC215 tags can hold upto 504bytes of data, about a paragraph of text, they can be written to multiple times allowing data to be changed, updated or deleted. They are also compatible with most NFC-enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

NFC Tags store their data in plain text format and are platform agnostic. More complex data can be stored using the NDEF Standard. We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the video.

Simply NFC

To read the NFC Tags, we will use Simply NFC by Lakeside Llama from the App Store. The free version is Ad supported, or you can pay £2.99 (approx. $3.75 or 3.50 euros, as of 6 February 2024) for the prof version with unlocks features such as writing NDF data.

On opening simply NFC, the app is in read mode. Starting from the top left-hand corner, the app has the following buttons:-

  • Settings – Allows you to set various preferences such as read automatically on loading
  • History – This lets you view a list of previously scanned tags
  • Multiscan nfc – Allows you to scan several NFC tags, and then view a list of the results.
  • Read nfc – Press to start reading NFC Tags.
  • Tab bar read, write mode.

To read an NFC Tag.

  1. Press READ NFC. If you are using the voiceover screen reader, the button is located in the centre of the screen. Voiceover will announce “READ NFC Button”
  2. The NFC Ready to Scan popup will appear, and VoiceOver will say “Ready to Scan”. Place the back of the phone near the NFC tag. The NFC Reader on the iPhone is located in the top right corner of the phone. You may need to move the phone around a bit to get a scan.
  3. You will then hear a two-tone beep and a vibration, and an Alert box showing the contents of the tag will be displayed. Voice-over users will hear, “Alert Scan Result, S, Place the phone, Simply NFC Scan Result”.  VoiceOver users will need to swipe to the right once to hear the data stored on the NFC tag, then swipe right twice to select OK to close the Alert Box.

To write to an NFC Tag

  1. Tap on the write button located in the Tab Bar at the bottom of the screen – Voiceover Users will hear “Tab Bar – Write Tab, 2 of 2”
  2. Tap on Add Record – Voiceover – Navigate to the top left hand corner of the screen then swipe right until you hear “Add Write Record Button” then double tap
  3. Tap on Add Text Record – Voiceover – Swipe right until you hear “Add text record” then double tap
  4. Enter the text you want to record to the NFC tag – Voiceover users swipe right until you hear Enter Text, Elipsis, edit.
  5. To save the text, press the Add button located in the top right hand side of the screen.
  6. Tap Write Tag – VoiceOver – Swipe right until you hear write tag button.
  7. The ready to scan dialogue box will be displayed – Voiceover use will hear, ready to scan. Hold your phone near the NFC tag, you will hear to beeps, this will confirm that the tag has been written.