What is NFC?

What is NFC

NFC is an acronym for near-field communication. We are spoilt for choice with modern technology, particularly communication protocols. We have come a long way from rock paintings, smoke signals, and beating drums. Modern technology is improving exponentially. While there are many communication options available, NFC or near-field communication is one of the more recent and most exciting developments. 

What it is is a protocol that allows two devices to communicate. The range, as the name suggests, is short, less than ½ inch or 4 cm. It is a relatively low-speed protocol but is quick and easy to establish and can work in tandem with other protocols or wireless systems. This is known as bootstrapping. 

Uses of NFC

The most common devices that currently use NFC are smartphones. Pretty much all modern phones have and use this feature. The main use is for payment systems as it allows for fast, simple, and secure contactless payments. Apple, Android, and Samsung Pay are some of the leading examples of this technology. 

Electronic identities and keycards often employ NFC. One can also share data between devices such as videos, photos, documents, and other files. Another use is marketing, advertising, and information boards. These can send data and information to the user instantly. 

There are already streaming services and speakers that allow you to transmit music and audio over NFT. 

The Evolution of NFC

NFC was developed from RFID or radio-frequency identification. RFID dates back as far as 1983 when the technology was first patented.  Philips, Sony, Nokia, and other companies were instrumental in the development of NFC and it became an officially recognized protocol in 2003. 

In 2009 we saw the first commercial application of NFC in China for bus and Tramway access and in  2013 Visa teamed up with Samsung to develop an NFT based payment system. With the technology now being ubiquitous in smartphones and multiple other devices, there are now many opportunities to use and benefit from NFT. It is often hard at work without you even realizing you are using it. 

The Basics of NFC 

Before we get into the more technical details, what you need to know is that NFC devices are either passive or active. A tag, card, or other device is able to send data to another device. These devices do not need to have power. These are passive devices and can not connect to other passive devices nor can they process data. 

An active NFC device can send, receive, and process data. So a card reader or terminal and a smartphone are examples of active devices. 

How Does NFC Technology Work?

Electromagnetic induction is used to produce radio waves to communicate. This is what allows passive devices with no power to send data. The range, as we have said, is very short. The frequency used is 13.56 megahertz and transfer rates can be 106, 212, or 424 kilobits per second. This is generally sufficiently fast for financial data and other information for which NFC is currently used. It will even allow you to transfer music, images, and video at fair speeds. 

The Advantage over Bluetooth and Other Protocols

While most of us use Bluetooth, WiFi, and other technologies on a regular basis, there are several good reasons NFC is a popular choice for certain circumstances. 

The low power consumption and the fact that the passive device needs no power is one of the main benefits. For Bluetooth or other connections, both or all devices need power and the protocol consumes a fair amount of power. Not so with NFC. 

The speed and ease of connection is the other main attraction. There is no manual pairing required so, provided the devices are in range, an instant seamless connection can be established. Other protocols require so set up especially if they have never been paired before. 

Downsides to NFC 

The negative aspects are the relatively slow data transition speeds as well as the short-range. While these both help with the above advantages they do limit the potential. 

What is important to understand is the NFC is still relatively new compared to other protocols and is still developing. There will be many more applications and opportunities in the future. 

Conclusion

NFC is an exciting communication protocol and is sure to get more exciting as the technology and uptake increase. It is already very handy for financial and other transactions, marketing, information sharing, and a host of other applications. There is no doubt that the benefits and use of NFC will increase in the coming years. 

This article was last updated on November 8, 2021 .

By Charl Jooste

Writing full time from home, Charl enjoys modern technology and advanced gadgets but still has a soft spot for quality reliable appliances. He is passionate about durability and quality going to great lengths to find the very best ideas and leading products to share with readers.