Honey, I Shrunk the Tag Reader for Home Assistant

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Andrea Donno, a prominent figure in the Home Assistant community, recently unveiled a preview of the latest Tag Reader for Home Assistant. From the first look, it's clear that this nifty gadget has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. Slimming down to almost half its former size, the new Tag Reader is now a model of compact efficiency.

The essence of Home Assistant's Tag Reader

In autumn 2020, Home Assistant introduced the concept of tags, paving the way for NFC tags to be incorporated into Home Assistant and its applications. With Android smartphones, iPhones, or ESPHome nodes, users could write to and read these tags, sparking a wave of innovation in their use. The swift progress was in no small part due to Andrea Donno and Magnus Øverli's creation of the Tag Reader for Home Assistant.

A comparison of three generations of Tag Readers for Home Assistant. The last generation is about half the size of the first generation.
A comparison of three generations of Tag Readers for Home Assistant

This petite powerhouse boasts an ESP8266 board (Wemos D1 mini), a NFC reader (PN532), an RGB LED (WS2812), and a buzzer. The device can be acquired pre-assembled or as a DIY kit from Donno's website. For those who prefer a hands-on approach, the Tag Reader is entirely open-source, allowing you to source components from any supplier and even 3D print a case, with STL files readily available on GitHub. As expected, the device is powered by ESPHome, with the YAML file also accessible on GitHub.

A peek into the third iteration of the Tag Reader for Home Assistant

When it comes to the downsizing of the device, Andrea Donno has kept the details under wraps. However, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that one of the ESP-XX modules may have played a role in this transformation. Donno also let slip that the latest Tag Reader for Home Assistant can be powered through a USB-C port. Considering the absence of a Micro-USB interface in ESP-XX modules, it's plausible that a breakout board, like the one offered by Adafruit, was employed to furnish the USB-C connector.

A USB-C breakout board
A USB-C breakout board

Decoding NFC

NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a short-range wireless marvel that allows devices to engage in a tête-à-tête and exchange information when they find themselves within a few centimetres of each other. This technology has carved a niche for itself in contactless payment systems, access control mechanisms, and data transfers between smartphones or other compatible gadgets.

The NFC tag is a self-sufficient entity that doesn't rely on a battery for its sustenance. Instead, it harnesses the power of electromagnetic induction to conjure up a modest current when in the proximity of an NFC reader. This current breathes life into the tag, enabling it to transmit data back to the reader or device.

A portrait photo oif Liam Alexander Colman, the author, creator, and owner of Home Assistant Guide wearing a suit.

About Liam Alexander Colman

is an experienced Home Assistant user who has been utilizing the platform for a variety of projects over an extended period. His journey began with a Raspberry Pi, which quickly grew to three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-fledged server. Liam's current operating system of choice is Unraid, with Home Assistant comfortably running in a Docker container.
With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Home Assistant, Liam has an impressive setup, consisting of various Zigbee devices, and seamless integrations with existing products such as his Android TV box. For those interested in learning more about Liam's experience with Home Assistant, he shares his insights on how he first started using the platform and his subsequent journey.

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