This is one for the old school hackers. Unix like operating systems (of which Android is one) have had a few core mantras over the years, for example, programs should “do one thing and do it well”. Two other driving ideas are “Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces” and “Design programs to be connected to other programs”. In this review, I’m looking at two apps that work well alone, but when combined have the potential to be dynamite. Tasker has been around for a long time. It’s essentially a visual scripting language for automating your phone. There are a number of other automation apps around, but none seem to be as comprehensive as Tasker. NFC Task Launcher is more recent, and mirrors a tiny fraction of Tasker’s functionality. However, does one ting that Tasker does not do, which is programming NFC tags, including programming them to launch Tasker tasks.
I won’t go into detail about what Tasker is and can do. The basics are that you can create profiles that launch tasks when certain things happen – eg. at a certain time, in a certain location, when you receive a text, when the phone disconnects from a Bluetooth device. That tasks that can be launched are various and diverse, from sending a text message, to popping up a custom menu, to reading something aloud. All great stuff for doing things like popping up a menu of audio apps when you plug in headphones, or turning auto-sync off at night. But one area of weakness that has kept me from using Tasker to what I had thought was its full potential, was in terms of location based automation. It is possible to have location based automation using Tasker, but it is complicated to set up, it is a big battery drain, and it won’t work if the location you are using is on the move (ie. your car).
NFC Task Launcher
This is where NFC comes in. You can put NFC tags in the various locations you want the phone to do different things. So your phone now “knows” where it is because you tell it where it is with a swipe of the tag. The benefits of this are huge. This allows you to be fine grained about location based automation. Your home can have several locations – by the door to turn off work email when you get home. – by the bed to turn off auto-sync, turn off notifications (but leave the phone ringer on), and set an alarm. NFC Task Launcher is incredibly easy to use and intuitive. You can set up tags to trigger one thing, or as a switch which does one thing the first time you touch it, and another, the second.
NFC Task Launcher has a number of built in functions you can access, including toggling settings, opening apps, or activities within apps. These are useful for simple tasks, but if you are looking to do something a bit more fancy, then you can set that up in Tasker and launch it with an NFC tag.
The One Two Combo
This is just one example of what can be done with Tasker and NFC Task Launcher. I have an NFC tag in my car. When I touch my phone to it, it launches a Tasker task that:
- Turns on Bluetooth and connects the phone to my hands free – using the Bluetooth Auto Connect plugin I can specify which device to connect to.
- Turns on a profile so that when I receive an SMS, it gets read aloud.
- Turns on another profile that will turn everything off again when the phone disconnects from the hands free – this is so when I leave the car, and forget to swipe my NFC tag again,my Bluetooth is turned off to save battery, and make sure my texts don’t get read aloud.
- Says aloud that my car profile is on, so I know it’s worked.
This is a pretty simple setup, but with this one two combo, the world is your oyster, as long as it is littered with NFC tags.