Near Field Communication (NFC)

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range wireless communication standard similar to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). NFC uses electromagnetic induction to bridge the physical space between an active NFC device (such as a smartphone) and another active or passive device (such as an NFC tag) to transfer data. NFC has similarities to QR and BLE.

NFC Use Cases

The applications for NFC technology are rapidly growing now that most smartphones come standard with the technology.

Current uses include:

  • Contactless payments
  • Interactive marketing and advertising
  • Security and access control
  • Product identification and location identification
  • Mobile phone task launcher apps

NFC User Experience

NFC provides a straightforward experience for users. Once the NFC tag has been encoded with the desired information or action it is ready to use. The user simply taps the back of the phone against the NFC tag and this action will launch the URL, application or service encoded. No wasting time lining up cameras with barcodes or downloading apps just to scan.

How close do you have to be?

NFC technology only works in close proximities – typically no more than a few centimeters. This close range makes NFC ideal for interaction and means that tags can’t ‘unintentionally’ be read or used for unwanted tracking. The ‘tap’ action is deliberate and part of the appeal of NFC as opposed to other longer range RFID technologies.

The Difference between RFID and NFC

While both RFID and NFC employ radio signals for various tagging and tracking purposes, RFID can be used at distances of several feet and is a one-way communication system in which data flows from the tag to the reading equipment. NFC technology only operates in close range (maximum of 4 inches) and can be set up for one or two-way communication.

Which phones support NFC?

Nearly all new smartphones are equipped with NFC. With the launch of Apple’s iPhone 6, all of the top mobile manufacturers have now adopted NFC. See an up to date list of all NFC phones currently on the market.

How do NFC mobile payments work?

NFC provides the ‘link’ between a mobile phone and a payment terminal device. A big advantage of NFC is its ability to only work in close proximity to a reader providing a secure payment method. With the use of apps like Google Wallet or Apple Pay, customers can simply “tap” their phone to the payment terminal for purchases eliminating the need for carrying cash or cards.

Mobile payments are not only straightforward and convenient, but allows for two way interaction such as “virtual” coffee shop loyalty cards and shopper reward points.