Near field communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres. Present and anticipated applications include contactless transactions, data exchange, and simplified setup of more complex communications such as Wi-Fi. Communication is also possible between an NFC device and an unpowered NFC chip, called a “tag”.
NFC standards cover communications protocols and data exchange formats, and are based on existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) standards including ISO/IEC 14443 and FeliCa. The standards include ISO/IEC 18092 and those defined by the NFC Forum, which was founded in 2004 by Nokia, Philips and Sony, and now has more than 160 members. The Forum also promotes NFC and certifies device compliance.
NFC builds upon Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems by allowing two-way communication between endpoints, where earlier systems such ascontactless smart cards were one-way only. Since unpowered NFC “tags” can also be read by NFC devices, it is also capable of replacing earlier one-way applications.
NFC devices can be used in contactless payment systems, similar to those currently used in credit cards and electronic ticket smartcards, and allow mobile payment to replace or supplement these systems. For example, Google Wallet allows consumers to store credit card and store loyalty card information in a virtual wallet and then use an NFC-enabled device at terminals that also accept MasterCard PayPass transactions. Germany, Austria, Latviaand Italy have trialled NFC ticketing systems for public transport. China is using it all over the country in public bus transport and India is implementing NFC based transactions in box offices for ticketing purposes.
Uses of NFC include:
- Matching encrypted security code and transporting access key;
- Due to short transmission range, NFC-based transactions are possibly secure;
- Instant payments and coupon delivery using your handset, as we do with your credit card or debit card;
- Marketing and exchange of information such as schedules, maps, business card and coupon delivery using NFC Marketing tags;
- Pay for items just by waving your phone over the NFC capable devices
- Transferring images, posters for displaying and printing
- Social media e.g Like on Facebook, Follow on Twitter via NFC smart stickers in retail stores
Bluetooth and WiFi connections
NFC offers a low-speed connection with extremely simple setup, and could be used to bootstrap more capable wireless connections. It could, for example, replace the pairing step of establishing Bluetooth connections or the configuration of Wi-Fi networks.
The NFC Forum promotes the potential for NFC-enabled devices to act as electronic identity documents and keycards. As NFC has a short range and supports encryption, it may be more suitable than earlier, less private RFID systems.