Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

NFC Ring lets you unlock your door by giving it the finger

By

July 22, 2013

The NFC Ring takes a simple idea and opens up a world of possibilities

The NFC Ring takes a simple idea and opens up a world of possibilities

Image Gallery (5 images)

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a technology that's just oozing with potential. Though the mainstream adoption of near-field communication hasn't exactly gone as planned, that doesn't mean that NFC isn't still a fertile ground for great products. One upcoming product, the NFC Ring, is an example of the kinds of imaginative projects that could become more widespread a few years down the road.

The NFC Ring is exactly what its name suggests. The creation of developer and self-described "jolly hacker" John McLear, the NFC Ring is a piece of finger jewelry with a couple of NFC inlays inside.

Uses

NFC Ring creator John McLear unlocks his door using the NFC Ring

Okay, so you have a ring with some fancy-schmancy new technology inside of it. So what?

Well, one potential use is if you buy an NFC-equipped door lock such as the Lockitron. Then you can unlock your door without any keys or smartphone in sight. Just raise your hand (or finger) to the sensor, listen for the click, and enter your home with the jewelry acting as the key.

Another potentially cool use for the NFC Ring is to unlock something much smaller: your smartphone. If you have an NFC-enabled phone like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One (just two examples of many), then you can download an app that will let you unlock your phone with ease and security. Tap your ring finger on the back of your phone, and enjoy passcode protection without the hassle of entering a passcode.

McLear can unlock his Android phone too

If you add NFC tags and NFC-enabled phones into the mix, you could program your ring to do about a million other things, ranging from opening specific apps or composing messages, to sharing your Wi-Fi network or your personal URL. If NFC ever finds the widespread adoption some had expected by now, those possibilities will only multiply.

Safe in hand

The ring is designed to prevent unwanted access to private information

While a great idea in itself, maybe the most brilliant thing about the NFC Ring is its approach to security. The ring actually has two NFC inlays onboard, one for public information (like your Twitter handle or email address), and one for private info (like the lock to your door, payment info, or your phone's passcode).

As you see in the above illustration, the private inlay is smaller, and designed to rest on the inside (palm side) of your ring finger. This gives you much greater control over that info as it requires a deliberate palm-facing gesture to transmit the secure info to another NFC device.

There's something instinctual about this approach. Clutch your hand in a fist, and your private information is locked tight. Open your hand and face your palm outwards, and you share it with those you trust. Users will just have to be careful that the ring doesn't rotate on their finger so that the wrong side is facing out.

Promising start

No tacky jewelry here, the NFC Ring looks pretty snazzy to us

We haven't yet put the NFC Ring through the paces, but the project's Kickstarter page reveals an inventor who's committed to his craft, and has thought deeply about the details. McLear will even send you the NFC overlays and schematics for you to 3D print your own, if that's your thing. Having already collected £25,684 (US$39,500) in pledges towards its £30,000 (US$46,000) goal, the NFC Ring looks like a sure bet to get funded.

You can check out the Kickstarter video pitch below.

Source: Kickstarter

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
7 Comments

"The mainstream adoption of near-field communication hasn't exactly gone as planned" for the simple reason that the initial planned uses for NFC were about as boneheaded as they come.

I mean, follow along here: it was proposed to use NFC for monetary transactions at checkout stands. And the encryption was effectively broken before it was even widely available in phones (or an exploit that got around it found; no practical difference).

In addition to that, NFC is radio. Researchers hadn't just gotten past the encryption, they ALSO demonstrated they could use their exploit to grab credentials from NFC-equipped phones from several feet away. And that's when they were not even in active use.

Then you add to that the fact that even if it's only a tiny signal, a large enough antenna doesn't care. You could set up an NFC-grabbing array behind a wall in a big store and snarf all the NFC transactions and their data you wanted, and nobody would be the wiser until you eventually gave yourself away by stealing everybody's money.

(Don't think so? Remember the researcher in San Francisco who read RFID credentials from passports in peoples' pockets from his car 30 FEET AWAY?)

Yeah... not as planned is right. And thank heaven for that.

Anne Ominous
22nd July, 2013 @ 11:50 pm PDT

I should add (not to rant but intended as practical advice):

If there are two NFC components, one inside and one outside, then there is a fundamental problem with the ring as shown: there is no way to keep the inside on the inside. The ring will have to be made physically asymmetrical (as many rings already are) to keep the inside from slipping out. Making it smooth and round, as shown, is probably not a good idea.

Anne Ominous
23rd July, 2013 @ 12:00 am PDT

What's wrong with basic face recognition software ?

Atul Malhotra
23rd July, 2013 @ 10:04 am PDT

This, I like...but is it new? Nope...NFC rings have been in use for about a decade now! I have one that I purchased almost 10 years ago...sure, it's bigger, but it's an NFC ring none-the-less.

Ed
23rd July, 2013 @ 01:29 pm PDT

Another similar item is The Geak Ring which was primarily designed as an alternative method of unlocking a smartphone or tablet.

The ring is expected to retail at ¥199 (US$30) when it becomes available to pre-order in China in August.

Robert O'Hare
31st July, 2013 @ 09:35 am PDT

Actually I find no mention of NFC capability at lockitron. In fact they tout Bluetooth but only for iOS devices. And the lockitron is only an additional controller which fits over your existing deadbolt lever, so you must have such. Remote access seems to be only over the lockitron web site, so if that is down you would be left in the cold, maybe literally.

bboyes
19th August, 2013 @ 09:55 am PDT

I like the concept, but share concerns over security when NFC is used by itself. It should be used in combination with other security methods such as a pin number, bio-metrics, and/or a physical key. Combining it with a physical key would also allow you to over ride if power fails. That said, it should have a mode that is NFC only when you are wanting convenience over enhanced security. But all those concerns really deal with the lock design, not the NFC key. The NFC ring is fine as it is since it is just a key, but the lock needs to address the security concerns.

Kevin Munger
23rd April, 2014 @ 08:30 am PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 29,534 articles