Using an NFC transit ticket to unlock Android Devices

We have been thinking a lot recently about how to make our Android tablets more accessible to Elementary students who don’t have a strong strong grasp of language. Once set up as a user and the students have logged into their Google Apps account, we can use NFC tags to unlock a device which has an NFC reader. No passwords or username required.

In this example I’m going to use an AMT train ticket, but you could purchase NFC tags from Amazon or eBay.

The first step is to ensure that you’re running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) on your device. If you aren’t this won’t work.

Step 1 – Go to Settings


Step 2 – Security – then Smart Lock


Step 3 – Enter your pass code – now choose trusted devices


Step 4 – Add trusted device (here you can see my YubiKey and car are already trusted devices)


Step 5 – NFC


Step 6 – tap the tag you want to set up


Step 7 – Give your tag a name. Now you’re all done – to delete a tag you simply press the one you want to remove and confirm.


Now all you have to do is swipe your device to unlock it and tap your NFC card against the device. It will unlock and you will be able to access the tablet.


The great thing here is that for a lot of people you can use transit tickets which are just garbage and lying around to become repurposed tech. They can also be used with special needs students and you can even use ID cards with NFC to act as smart cards for staff.

Hopefully over time Chromebooks will also come with NFC and a similar functionality will exist.

We can now print students photos on stick labels and attach these to the tag that is registered under their name. These cards can now be put in a drawer, pencil case or kept on lanyards.

We have also been trailing YubiKey Neo’s which allow a students username and password to be stored on a USB two factor hardware token and also have NFC built in. These have the advantage of allowing students to use both tablets and computers with the same device. However at $50 a student they are an expensive solution.


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