Playing with touchatag reader

Touchatag reader
We got a bunch of Touchatag NFC readers in the office just after Christmas and I said I would have a play with one to see what we could use them for. I had seen one before (in fact I borrowed one from Andy Piper for a little while) but didn’t get much further than trying to read my work id card.

To get it work on Linux you need to use PCSC Lite and download the driver from ASC (the guys that actually make the readers that Touchatag use). You can grab the download here. Once you’ve built these (standard “configure; make; sudo make install”) you will need to update one of the PCSC config files. There is a patch linked to from this page:

PCSC Lite is packaged for Fedora and Ubuntu, but I couldn’t find libnfc in the standard repos for Ubuntu so ended up building it myself for one of the machines in the office. Again this was a simple “configure; make; sudo make install”. With that done I was able to use the nfc-mfclassic tool from the libnfc samples to read data from a tag.

$ nfc-mfclassic r a test.out
Connected to NFC reader: ACS ACR122U 00 00 / ACR122U103 - PN532 v1.6 (0x07)
Found MIFARE Classic 4k card with UID: 9e2bcaea
Reading out 256 blocks |.....................................|

Which gets me a file with all the data stored on a tag (assuming I know the right keys to access all the blocks), but most of the time just having the tag id is enough to trigger an event. After a bit more poking around I found nfc-eventd which seamed to fit the bill perfectly.

This allows you to specify commands to be run when a tag is placed on the reader and when it is removed and it will pass the tag id to the command. Here is the config file I used

nfc-eventd {

  # Run in background? Implies debug=false if true
  daemon = false;

  # show debug messages?
  debug = true;
  # polling time in seconds
  polling_time = 1;

  # expire time in seconds
  # default = 0 ( no expire )
  expire_time = 0;
  device my_touchatag {
    driver = "ACR122";
    name = "ACS ACR 38U-CCID 01 00";

  # which device to use ? note: if this part is commented out, 
  # nfc-eventd will try to pick up device automagically...
  #nfc_device = "my_touchatag";

  # list of events and actions
  module nem_execute {
    # Tag inserted
    event tag_insert {
      # what to do if an action fail?
      # ignore  : continue to next action
      # return  : end action sequence
      # quit    : end program
      on_error = ignore ;
      # You can enter several, comma-separated action entries
      # they will be executed in turn
      action = "publish 'wmqtt://nfc@broker:1883/nfc/tagid?qos=0&retain=n&debug=0' $TAG_UID"
    # Tag has been removed
    event tag_remove { 
      on_error = ignore;
      action = "(echo -n 'Tag (uid=$TAG_UID) removed at: ' && date) >> /tmp/nfc-eventd.log";
    # Too much time card removed
    event expire_time { 
      on_error = ignore;
      action = "/bin/false";


Here I have used the publish command from the IBM IA93 C MQTT package to publish a message with the tag id to the nfc topic. You can do something similar with mosquitto_pub like this:

mosquitto_pub -h broker -i nfc -t nfc -m $TAG_ID

The plan is to use this now to allow the guys in ETS to log into various demos in the lab with their id badges.

Next on the list is to see if I can get the reader to respond to my Galaxy Nexus when it’s in tag mode.