Can I use my own NFC stickers with Launch Center Pro?

Short answer yes! Long answer… it's… complicated.

Using the [nfc] tag as documented here will read any standard, non-encrypted, NFC sticker/tag. NFC stickers/tags can have all sorts of data stored on them, including plain text, URLs, contact information, etc, and they can even store a combination of these on a single tag. If you have a random NFC tag, it could contain anything on it, including malicious data (links to malware, or even specially encoded data intended to compromise your device). Launch Center Pro NFC stickers store a unique URL on them. Many (probably most) uses of NFC (think Apple Pay) use encryption to secure the data transferred via NFC and thus that data can't be read by an iPhone and by extension, Launch Center Pro.

Reading random NFC stickers can be fun, but it's not particularly useful. You can't use those stickers to trigger anything in Launch Center Pro. It's not that we don't want you to, it's that background scanning of NFC stickers is tightly regulated on iOS (to help protect you from the aforementioned malicious data). In order for background scanning to work, Launch Center Pro had to register a “Universal Link” and request a special entitlement from Apple. That being the case, only NFC stickers with the URL "https://nfc.launchcenterpro.com" encoded in them will be able to trigger Launch Center Pro from the background.

But that's not quite enough, each URL has to be unique. This allows Launch Center Pro to register each individual sticker to trigger different actions and be associated with different data in the app. For the stickers we had manufactured, we use the format nfc.launchcenterpro.com/batch#/UUID. So the sticker URL might look something like this:

 https://nfc.launchcenterpro.com/0001/1ef1f015-be5e-4877-8b2f-6ce05705e2ad

You can replicate uniqueness with any series of numbers of letters, so each of these would be recognized as unique if triggered in Launch Center Pro:

https://nfc.launchcenterpro.com/1
https://nfc.launchcenterpro.com/1234
https://nfc.launchcenterpro.com/A
https://nfc.launchcenterpro.com/ABCD

OK, so now that you know what URLs to use for encoding stickers, how do you actually encode them? Well, that's where it gets even more complicated. iOS doesn't currently allow apps to write data to NFC stickers. So if you buy blank NFC stickers on Amazon, there's nothing you can do with those blank stickers directly on iOS.

But there are two other ways to encode Launch Center Pro URLs into your own stickers. You can use an Android device, or you can purchase an NFC encoder.

We don't support Android, and don’t have any specific NFC app recommendations on that platform, but if that's something you want to try, you can easily search for instructions. But before going down that road, make sure your Android device even supports NFC writing (many don't).

The other option is to purchase an NFC encoder. For testing in Launch Center Pro, we purchased the “ACR1252U NFC USB Read and Writer” from GoToTags. Yup, $40 and you have to plug it into a Mac, download software (we used NFC Ideas), and manually encode each sticker.

As you can see, encoding NFC tags isn't yet a simple task, that's why we decided it would be best for our customers if we created our own NFC stickers. We wanted as many people as possible to get to experience the fun and productivity boost of NFC stickers without having to pay that much and jump though all those hoops.

The stickers we’re selling may seem expensive, but by the time you add up the cost of custom printing the stickers, warehousing, fulfillment, etc. we're not actually making much money on them. It'd be much easier for us to not purchase inventory and manage all the complexities of shipping, accepting returns, replacing lost stickers, etc. But we didn't think many people would actually jump through all those hoops and get to use NFC. And we wanted the experience of using NFC with Launch Center Pro to be as straightforward as possible.

One more word of warning, in our research into NFC stickers we did read that not all NFC stickers are created equal. Some of the cheap stickers found on Amazon might not work at all, or might not hold up over time. For our stickers, we went with one of the premier NFC companies in the world that supplies big companies like Google, Microsoft, Coke, and more.

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