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27 June 2010 @ 03:41 pm
I ride the T every work day, and most weekend days, and for all that I complain about how it could be better, I love being able to do most of my getting around on trains and buses. I don't, however, love having to keep track of my Charliecard, not specifically because of it but just because I have so many little bits and pieces of life I have to carry around every day: Charliecard, phone, wallet, keys, etc. Sometimes, I'd like to be able to leave the house with, say, JUST my phone and my keys. But I always want my Charliecard with me, because, hey, I never know when I'm going to want to hop on a bus and go somewhere interesting.

Wouldn't it be nice if my phone could be my T pass? Well, I realized, there's no reason it can't be. So I tried sticking the card under the skin I had on my phone, but it turns out the card is too big and bulky and is too stiff to conform to the shape of the phone. Rats. Except! I don't need the whole card, right? Just the RFID tag and antenna. So I set out to do that.

I needed a Charliecard, a non-plastic container, and some acetone:
Laying in supplies

ETA: It's a good idea to make a note of your Charliecard number before you destroy it. I just put it in as a memo in my phone. I've never needed the number of my card before, but it would annoy me to find that suddenly I did and couldn't retrieve it!

I used way more acetone than I really needed; just enough to cover it would be plenty:
Charlie in acetone

Then, I waited. I don't know why I expected this step to take a couple of hours, but within a couple of minutes, the card looked like this:
Charlie not faring too well in acetone

And after about 20 minutes, it looked like this:
Charlie pretty much destroyed

So I swished it around and plucked out the important part:
RFID tag and antenna

At this point, I wanted to be sure it would still work, so I tucked it into my book and brought it along on my commute the next day. I tapped it on the fare machine as if to load it up with money, and lo and behold! It worked! So I put my July pass on it, and brought it back home to stick it under the new skin for my phone:
New Charliecard

ETA: Thanks to spike, I now have a photo of the finished product:
RFID antenna under iPhone skin
Because I just have a protective skin, rather than a case, you can tell there's something underneath, but not in a problematic way. At the point that you just have the RFID hardware, though, you could do any number of things with it, whether put it inside a skin or case for your phone, or apparently kids in London make bracelets out of it. For me, the cell phone/T pass combination is ideal. I'm so excited!

Feel free to share this around with anyone you think might find it useful for inspiring. Also, I have a lot of leftover acetone if anyone needs any ...
I'm feeling: accomplishedaccomplished
Lizrazil on June 27th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
OK. THAT is wicked cool.
The Great Laurenhatsbylaurenhat on June 27th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
Fabulous! :D
lazyzlazyz on June 27th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
Rowan: Summermzrowan on June 27th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
Also, I have a lot of leftover acetone if anyone needs any ...

I may well take you up on that.
Medyanimedyani on June 27th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)

Also, the acetone dissolving the card into gelatinous bits in minutes skeeves me out.
ruthless compassion: blech!aroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
It was surprising to me how much it made my skin crawl! Something about how it curled away was very organic-looking, like skin. Poor plastic!
Co-conspirator of Squee: !muffyjo on June 27th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Nicely done!
D. Fennelfennel on June 27th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
This is really cool. I kind of want to do it, except that I have my wallet with me even more consistently than my phone, so it would in fact be counterproductive.

But it's so cool!
ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the other part for me is that even when I have both, I'm much more likely to have my phone in my hand, so it's nice not to have to get it out of my bag to tap it.
Bad Rabbitzzbottom on June 27th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
I think you may have voided the warranty
jordanwillow: river tam: i can win thisjordanwillow on June 27th, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
you are so ingenious!

(at first i typed "ingenuous" and was like, wait, that doesn't look right)

(not that you're not also ingenuous!)
veek on June 28th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
Oh, man -- I'd meant to ask to see it yesterday! In any case, way way WAY cool. Go you with the hacking. :)
ruthless compassion: cheersaroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
I actually JUST finished it yesterday afternoon; the skin arrived on Saturday.
funner'n a sack a weaselsmoominmolly on June 28th, 2010 01:59 am (UTC)
Words of Fire on the Surface of the Worldinfinitehotel on June 28th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC)
What an amazingly cool idea!

My only worry would be some overzealous T-person seeing you swiping the plate with an electronic object and automatically assuming you were running some kind of hack. Then again, I'm not sure observant T employees exist. :)

ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
Well, so, most people who ride the T regularly keep their cards in their wallets or tucked into books or what have you, so I don't think this will look unusual to them even if they're looking closely.
wolfkitnwolfkitn on June 28th, 2010 11:13 am (UTC)
Very, very nice. Does the shape of the antenna have to be maintained, or can it be bent, folded, etc? Also, if this works, it makes me wonder why they tell people that you can't punch a hole in the card to attach it to a keychain the way people used to do. Hmph.
... in a handbasketinahandbasket on June 28th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
Because many people will punch through the antenna and ruin their card, and then they'll blame the MBTA for it. ;-)
It's easily doable if you know where the antenna is, and how to miss it.

aroraborealis: total win! nice work!
Punching a hole in my charlie card - (Anonymous) on May 3rd, 2015 05:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aroraborealis on June 28th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wolfkitn on July 2nd, 2010 03:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
harimad on June 28th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)

I marvel at how little stuff people needed a hundred years ago, or how much we need now. I keep my bag to what I think is minimum plus a couple small items like throat lozenges and it's still more than I could fit in pockets. What happened?

I know some of the answer, based on what I keep with me:
- car keys
- two car keys, actually
- work key
- several work IDs on a lanyard
- official work ID in special case
- wallet w/ cash, subway pass, credit cards, DL, library card, insurance info, emergency work contact info, ID related to spouse's work
- business cards
- eye drops, eye cream, throat lozenges, chapstick
- sunglasses
- cell phone

Most of these weren't called for - nay, even existed - a hundred years ago. Frex, I carry *six* photo IDs, only one of which isn't necessary on a daily basis.

A hundred years ago I might carry house key, cash, glasses, throat lozenges, subway tokens.

sarahshevettsarahshevett on June 28th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
I must be living a hundred years ago
Because all I carry is money. And my glasses if I remember them..
(no subject) - srakkt on June 29th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
drwexdrwex on June 28th, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC)
That's a great Make
you should send this to the people over at Maker magazine. (http://makezine.com/)