NFC – Near Field Communication & Its Applications

NFC, also called as Near Field Communication is a short range wireless communication network that can be used by two devices supporting the NFC Standard to communicate with each other over a short range (20 cm, practically around 4 cm). NFC can be integrated into smart phones, tablet computers, laptops/ computers, point of sale equipments, etc by embedding additional hardware circuitry or it can be added to any object by fixing NFC Tags over them.

The most common application of NFC (Near Field Communication) is to make credit card payments using an NFC enabled smart phone and NFC enabled Point of Sale terminal. One just needs to tap the smart phone over the PoS equipment or hover the phone very near to it, to make the payment securely.

Near Field Communication (NFC) operates in the 13.56 MHz frequency band and currently supports data rates of 106 Kbps to 424 Kbps. Since NFC is a very short range communication network and the messages exchanged between two NFC enabled devices are encrypted, the protocol is relatively secure. But NFC has its own security threats and needs to address certain security concerns arising due to user mis-handling – Smart phones getting stolen, for example.

There are passive NFC tags that can store a small amount of information securely. One can attach them to any device, like how an RFID tag is attached. A passive NFC tag does not need a power source and it can communicate with an Active NFC device using the power generated by the magnetic field of the Active NFC device in its range. Active NFC devices need dedicated power source to communicate with each other. NFC technology is compatible with RFID, by the way.

NFC enables faster and more intuitive interaction between two devices and it is complimentary to Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID and Wi-Fi wireless networks.

Applications of NFC – Near Field Communication:

  • Used to make credit card payments securely – Customers can tap their NFC enabled smart phones over NFC enabled Point of Sale equipments to make a payment. This way, the transaction is also secure because the counter clerk does not get to see the credit card number.
  • Passive, low cost NFC Tags can be attached to any object like retail products/ museum exhibits and the customer can hover their smart phone over them to get more details (like price, description, etc) about them.
  • Two NFC enabled devices can share photos, videos, music, applications or any other data between them.
  • Business cards or money can be transfered between two NFC enabled devices (like smart phones) directly.
  • NFC enabled smart phones (for example) can be used to instantly buy bus tickets / train tickets when a passenger gets to the station.
  • NFC chips can be embedded into a small credit card type (form-factor) cards that can be used as an ID Card or to make instant transactions over the counter.
  • NFC enabled devices can be used to pay to vending machines in fairs/ unmanned areas.
  • NFC can be used to instantly configure two devices to connect using long range wireless networks like bluetooth or Wi-FI, without requiring the complex set-up procedure normally involved to initiate them.
  • Parking lot ticket payments.
  • It can secure credit card payments by storing and making payments using a series of one-time use credit card numbers.
  • Smart phones can download instant receipt for transactions made through NFC. These receipts can be later sent to the employer for reimbursements.
  • NFC can be used for checking into location aware services like Foursquare to get deals, product promotions, suggestions, etc based on one’s location.
  • It can be used to make payments securely, where ever a Point of Sale equipment is required. For example, one can buy movie tickets, tickets for sports/ events, etc.

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