NFC Lock

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This is a NFC-enabled smart lock that interfaces with existing standard deadbolt assemblies. It allows a user to unlock their door(s) with their smartphone/smartwatch without needing to carry around annoying physical keys.

The team of two will design and assemble an electronic, Arduino-powered drop-in deadbolt assembly that can be unlocked with registered NFC-enabled devices such as the Apple Watch, newer iPhones, or most Android phones. The lock will be operated by a Particle Photon chip; the Photon is be web-enabled and will be NFC-enabled thanks to a PN532 NFC breakout board, allowing it to check NFC credentials and be operated remotely from a web app or mobile app. A small battery pack (x6 AA's) will provide power to the Arduino and servo.

A detailed user story indicating the flow of events that allow the lock to function:

  • John Doe downloads the native iOS app for the smart lock
  • John Doe signs in to his Lock account on the native app, linking his phone's credentials to his account
  • John approaches the door with the phone, and the phone recognizes the NFC signal coming from the Photon
  • The phone sends an encrypted HTTPS web request to the Photon's webhook API along with its unique credentials (UID or Serial No.)
  • The Photon accepts the request, checks the data against its list of registered devices, and decides whether or not to open the deadbolt
  • If the credentials are approved, the Photon will apply an electronic signal to the deadbolt servo, opening the door

[to tutorial]
[to weekly log]


  • Kai Banks
  • Nikki Wines
  • Nathan Schmetter (TA)
  • James Feher (Instructor)

Primary Goals

  • Use NFC-enabled device to unlock your deadbolt (assuming the device is registered & authorized)
  • Secure, relatively hack-proof system
  • Polished finished product (custom-designed 3d-printed enclosure, etc.)
  • Web-enable product so that it can be monitored & manipulated from web app and native iOS app

Secondary Goals

  • Replace AA battery pack with rechargeable pack for convenience
  • Implement backup authentication method in case wifi or power goes out


The NFC Lock will be compatible with any door with a standard lock hole. The outward-facing side will consist of a standard doorknob and small NFC-enabled area. The inward-facing side will feature a standard doorknob and will house the Arduino and power supply (or will connect to a wall outlet for prototyping purposes, if power turns out to be an issue). The inward-facing side, which will look like a plastic block several inches in height and width, will also house the servo motor that attaches to and manipulates the deadbolt.

Technology-wise: the Arduino will constantly emit a low-power NFC signal from the outside of the door. When a phone comes into proximity with the signal, the native NFC Lock app will be launched automatically (or manually, if this proves difficult) and will submit a webhook request to the Particle API. This encrypted request will contain the phone's unique information. The Photon will interpret the request and check the enclosed credentials against an encrypted list of authorized credentials. If the credentials are not found in the list, the door will not open; if they are, the Arduino board will send power to the servo, opening the deadbolt for ten-ish seconds and allowing the authorized user in.


  • First and foremost, security. All web requests MUST be encrypted & sent through HTTPS (as they may contain sensitive information, like phone UIDs and serials)
  • Not biting off more than we can chew (see Goals section)
  • Keeping budget under $150 for a pretty high-tech product
  • Not using an unnecessarily large amount of battery during normal operation (minor)

Materials Needed

  • Particle Photon (Arduino Uno with a Particle shield) - [link] - have (normally $20)
  • Deadbolt, knobs, assembly - have (not included in price because product relies on there already being a deadbolt present)
  • 3D-Printed Enclosure - free
  • Servo Motor to control Deadbolt - [link] - $18
  • NFC Reader - [link] - $40
  • Demo door assembly - $15

TOTAL: <$80

Gantt Chart(s)





Design and Solutions

Module 1: Particle Photon + NFC Board

The first objective of the project was to get the Particle Photon microcontroller talking to the PN532 NFC breakout board. The idea was to get the NFC board to recognize the presence of NFC tags and then send the information encoded within the tags to the Photon, which would determine what corresponding action to take. For an in-depth tutorial on how we achieved this goal, check this link. The basics are as follows:

  • solder header pins onto the PN532 board
  • set up included jumpers on the board to use hardware SPI mode
  • wire the board to a 4050 level shifter chip according to online schematics
  • wire the 4050 to the Photon's pins according to those schematics
  • load the PN532 Arduino library onto the Photon
  • start up the PN532 from the Photon in code

These steps allowed us to check for the presence of NFC tags with the PN532 board, send a tag's information back to the Photon, and deal with the information appropriately within the Photon's code. Code here.

Module 2: Native iOS App

Module 3: Assembly + Housing


One of the most difficult parts of the entire project was getting the NFC breakout board to communicate properly with the Particle Photon. We created an in-depth tutorial (linked below) that illustrates exactly how to get the two devices working in tandem.
[to tutorial]