A World Without Sight: How NFC Technology Helps

A guest blog by Alastair

Hi, My name is Alastair. I’m from a small town in the east of England, and in April 2015 my wife lost her sight as a result of a rare medical condition.

NFC technology helping visually impaired

She spent a month in hospital, and has since had to adapt and relearn her whole world. Imagine not being able to tell the time, use a phone to call for help or know what things are laying around the home. I started to look at Talking Clocks, Telephones, Voice Labellers provided by the RNIB and other private organisations. These are all useful items that can easily solve the problems at hand, but they can be costly, limited in scope/functionality and take up space. I wanted to find a solution that was easy to use, didn’t take up too much space and was low cost. The solution that I came up with, was using NFC tags and my wife’s smartphone.

NFC Tags - so many uses
I bought a few NFC tags for experimentation and looked into programming the tags to tell the time, using my PC. The process was reasonably easy with my background in software development, but would be time consuming for more complex functions. I started to look on the Play Store for apps which could program the tags easily. This would allow me to set up a number of tags quickly and my wife could use her smartphone to read the content of the tags. I settled on NFC Tools for my wife’s smartphone and the NFC Tools – Pro Edition on my tablet.The Pro Edition has a simple interface that allows you to choose the function and tap to apply. I created a clock tag that she can tap to her smartphone day or night and know what time it is. She added the customisation of a hair tie to attach it to her wrist.

NFC tags for visually impaired


I then added the “Call” function to the other tags to allow her to call family and friends with a simple tag to the phone. Next I moved on to using NFC with other items around the home. The tags I had already purchased were all used up so I went back to Amazon to look for more. I decided to purchase tags that were more flexible in use. The solution was Sticker NFC tags. For example, I paired the Sticker NFC tags with Plastic Can Lids to create audible labels.

Lids with NFC tags
Using the “Text to Speak” function of NFC Tools I could create a number of labels for common foods in the cupboard and my wife can have a yummy lunch whilst I’m at work. I even added a “Get Milk” automatic text message function to the fridge. The uses for NFC are endless.

Use NFC tag to add a “Get Milk” automatic text message function to the fridge.

I recently showed the use of NFC to my wife’s rehabilitation worker who was not aware of the technology. She has taken the ideas and will be recommending them to other clients. We both are still discovering a world without sight and I would like to thank Julien at wakdev for creating NFC Tools and giving me this space.


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