Learn About NFC technology
NFC, or near-field communication, is an easy and intuitive technology that allows you to use your mobile phone for special purposes. An NFC tag can share and link to information such as web pages, social media and all other sorts of other information generally. Other areas where NFC is starting to evolve into are making payments, opening doors secured with contactless locks, logging on to computers and many more. All of these actions have something in common, that is they invoke an action based on you placing your phone (or any other NFC device) near (the N in NFC) the thing you want to read or interact with. Learn about NFC technology in this article.
NFC is bridging the gap between both the physical and virtual worlds. By bringing two devices near each other, there is a virtual reaction. Bluetooth and WiFi do not have this ease in set up. So the key feature of NFC is: It is automatic! There is no need to launch an application! …it just works!™
In more technological terms, NFC defines the way two products communicate with each other. NFC is short range wireless RFID technology (1-4cm realistically, 10cm theoretically) which uses low speeds (106-414 kbps) and a low friction setup (no discovery and no pairing), which then allows two devices to automatically start communicating when they are close to one another.
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More Background on NFC
NFC uses passive targets (with no batteries!) and random devices that are not powered (so called tags or stickers, sometimes aka transponders or labels) – all of which you can buy on this site as part of the Identive offering. NFC Tags are essentially “targets” that “want” to be touched by NFC devices like mobile phones (click here for a list of mobile phone featuring NFC). These Tags can contain information per se or point (i.e. direct) you to information, applications or services.
As you can see above, NFC is coming to many phones and handset manufacturers like Nokia, HTC, Samsung, RIM (Blackberry) have been pushing the deployment of the technology. Amongst the above and others, Google is developing application tools to allow application programmers to write programs that utilize NFC. The Android platform is called “Gingerbread” and it offers APIs to developers to allow for: Tag Read, Tag Write and Peer to Peer communications. Basically just touch to exchange data… and more! Google is also coming out with a new software platform that is called “Ice Cream Sandwich” and that supports NFC as well. Similarly, Nokia has been a long term supporter and developer of NFC technology and several smartphones offered by Nokia offer NFC functionalities. The phones based on the Windows Phone 8 platform coming out towards the end 2012 will very likely have NFC functionalities as well in their majority. Other handset manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung have joined into offering NFC technologies and we obviously hope that NFC will become a standard offering and core technology component in all phones. It is expected that 200 million phones with NFC technology will have shipped by the end of 2012 (source: re:ID, Spring 2012).
Identive has been on the front of NFC development, support and implementation. We design, manufacture and obviously sell readers, tags and solutions surrounding NFC and we pride ourselves of knowing a fair lot of this exciting technology. So essentially we believe you are at the right spot if you are looking for quality products, that will… just work!™
What is NFC used for?
Well the main usage people think of is payment. Contactless banking cards are becoming more and more common and a NFC phone can act like a contactless bank card. This means that when you are in a shop and ready to pay, rather than getting your standard plastic card out you can put you phone near a payment ‘reader’ and complete the payment.
The next thing that is commonly talked about after payments is access control or simply door security. Many offices and public spaces have contactless readers that keep doors locked and authorized people can use a contactless card to open the door. Again the NFC phone can play the role of the door entry security card and open the door, when it is place in the field (the F in NFC) of the door reader.
This being said (or written), there are many things you can do with NFC, some of which we have candidly listed here.
So why would I want to do this?
Because there are so much more examples of where NFC can make things more convenient, quicker or more fun for you. The most important thing to know is that you can create your own NFC application with your phone every day. So NFC is as much a solid technology that can handle complex and integrated payment and security systems as it is a fun, every day enabler of communication and sharing.
Where can NFC technology be seen today?
NFC technology is now starting to show up in the real world. For example, you may soon pass by a coffee shop and see a ‘spot.’ Instead of walking by, you decide to place your mobile device on the spot and just like that, you receive a discount off of your favorite brew.
The right time to buy NFC tags and develop your own application with them is now! There are more and more phones with NFC and use cases and pilot projects are popping up virtually every day.
Virtually anyone can benefit from NFC tags and stickers. Be it retailers, manufacturers, venues, theaters, public transportation. They benefit because NFC makes very complex digital interactions incredibly simple. A simple tap will allow even the most novice end users to take advantage of complex applications and services. This simplicity will mean that many application providers, advertising agencies and business owners’ will want to leverage NFC. It can open up new revenue streams by making things simple to get access to. Private and public sector people places and things can all benefit from NFC.’
Business owners can show their technology prowess by implementing NFC tags now. There are already services available to take advantage of the benefits of these types of programs.
Do I need to do anything on the phone first?
No. NFC phones are highly sophisticated yet simple devices. The technology allows for very simple operation, basically just putting the phone in the field of the reader triggers a series of radio communications (the C in NFC) between the SIM card or other secure chip in the phone, and door security system. You just need to make sure the phone has NFC integrated and NFC reading is on.
What are NFC Tags?
Firstly, NFC tags are thee products you can buy on this site. Technologically, they are a type of RFID chip or tag. They are designed to support NFC mobile device uses.
A tag has three main parts: the chip, the antenna and the paper or vinyl sticker itself. NFC tags tend to be self adhesive but clearly don’t actually need to be so, however for this discussion we will assume that they are.
The antenna collects radio energy form the mobile phone when the phone is passed close to the tag. This energy is the fed into the chip which receives just enough power to start it up and have brief conversation with the mobile phone. The special ‘trick’ with NFC is that this communication uses the same radio waves that power the chip so that the whole thing can be done in a single smooth pass. Reading an NFC tag in this way typically takes less than a second.
The antenna and chip combination are ‘sandwiched’ between two layers of the paper or vinyl one with some printed graphics facing the consumer and the other with the adhesive sticky bit. This allows the NFC tag to be stuck in any suitable location and the graphic allows users to identify the tags and use it.
When the tag is read as described above, the data on the tag is then available to the phone and various processing options are possible. This could range from opening a web page, making a phone call or sending an SMS. Such simplicity is achieved through the standardization of the NFC Data Encoding Format or NDEF as defined by the NFC forum.
The NDEF standard allows for a variety of data types and tag sub types to be handled in a stand way and so allowing app and mobile web developers to focus on the user experience rather than having to worry about the technical details of reading and parsing low level communications between the tag and phone.
Alongside the NDEF there are the Tag type standards that define the various tag types and the specifics of how they should be communicated with. All this adds up to a very straightforward mechanism for reading and of course writing to tags (which is done is exactly the same way but in reverse).
How are NFC tags different from RFID?
RFID is a broad term that covers many different types of chip and antenna combinations. The radio frequencies, reading distance and data encoding methods of the chip can vary enormously. NFC Tags on the other hand are very well defined and specified by the NFC forum, but can be considered as a special form of RFID strict specifications that allow them to be used in an open context.