Near Field Communication

NFC (near field communication) technology powers mobile payment apps such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, as well as key card access in office buildings and hotel rooms. Based on RFID (radio frequency identification), it has been in use for several years.

What is NFC?

NFC (Near Field Communication) technology enables contactless payments, simplifies connectivity with Bluetooth devices and IoT, and ensures secure data exchange. NFC technology has quickly become part of everyday consumer life around the world, with applications from simple mobile payment to file sharing among peers.

NFC stands out from similar short-range communication technologies by being “people-centric”, in that an authorized user simply needs to tap their phone on an NFC-compatible device in order to unlock its functionality.  This is easier than Bluetooth, which requires manual pairing and device discovery, as well as passwords in order to use its services.

To take advantage of NFC, an individual needs a smartphone equipped with NFC capabilities and the associated apps downloaded from either App Store or Google Play. Once enabled, this smartphone will recognize other NFC devices or objects when brought within inches.  This occurs by tapping them directly, or holding their wallet case, so as to enable scanning by an NFC reader.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is an ideal short-range technology, as it can transfer large amounts of data quickly. NFC also complements other technologies like RFID, Bluetooth, Ultrawideband (UWB) and QR codes, since each has unique properties that may make them better suited for certain uses.

RFID is a read-only technology used for scanning simple ID tags found on passports or airline tickets, as well as for identity verification or authentication, such as reading information stored in a credit card chip. Meanwhile, Bluetooth provides more sophisticated wireless technology that connects two or more active devices over relatively long distances; making it suitable for audio/video streaming, as well as exchanging small amounts of data.

With NFC technology enabling easy data transfers between devices, people are able to quickly connect smart home accessories or other connected devices without passwords or lengthy setup processes. Fitness companies such as FITBIT utilize NFC technology in this regard in order to transfer exercise and sleep tracking information between wearable devices and smartphones.

NFC Tag

NFC tags are passive data stores that can be read and written to by an NFC-enabled device like a smartphone, using its short-range wireless communication system to transmit data when in range of an active NFC device, called a reader. NFC readers are built into devices like smartphones, payment terminals, ticket machines, car door handles, or can even function independently and connect to NFC-enabled smartphones or other NFC devices through separate hardware modules.

NFC tags consist of an NFC chip powered by battery power and connected to an antenna, powered by battery power.  It is activated when an NFC-enabled device such as a smartphone approaches them via their electromagnetic field generated antenna.  When one such as smartphone approaches an NFC tag it transmits its data directly via this electromagnetic field generated antenna.  Typically this is read-only but sometimes rewritable in certain circumstances (ie password protected data).

NFC chips have become increasingly common these days, often embedded into stickers or mobile devices with NFC scanning software, enabling people to quickly connect to services like music streaming, video streaming and social media services with just a tap or swipe of their phone. NFC can also store data such as contact details that can easily be shared among contacts.

Businesses are finding unique uses for NFC tags in the workplace. For instance, businesses can create custom NFC stickers with links to their YouTube channel or website that allow viewers to scan and subscribe.  Embedding digital tokens into NFC tags enables members of gyms, health centers or offices to pay membership dues using smartphones while using them to gain entry.  Additionally, tamper detection and condition monitoring functionality enable businesses to track inventory or equipment condition remotely.

To use NFC on iOS devices, they must be within 4 cm or less of an object being scanned. It’s best for people to hold their phone near objects rather than tapping them as tapping can activate sensors on some devices that may cause unwanted sensors to activate. In order to make NFC more approachable for anyone interested, it may help if we eliminate technical, developer-oriented terms like NFC Core, NFC, or near field communication, and simply ask people to “hold their phone near” objects.

How Does An NFC Tag Work?

NFC tags contain microchips which store data that can be read or written to using an NFC device like a smartphone. When these devices come within centimeters of an NFC tag, electromagnetic induction energizes its microchip and transmits whatever is stored there securely through encryption technology.

Most mid-range and premium smartphones today include NFC hardware, making it possible to tap an NFC tag with one. If the tag’s payload contains contacts or messages, tapping it may automatically call them or send messages directly from your phone.  Similarly, web links open web browsers automatically and depending on its contents, may even automatically install or open specific applications on your phone.

NFC tags can either be passive, meaning that their power comes solely from electromagnetic induction from an NFC reader; or active, meaning they require some energy from within their tag to emit radio waves and send data transmission.

The Near Field Communication Extensible Format, more commonly referred to as NDEF records, are based on XML standards for exchanging information between devices. NFC records contain both a header section that specifies its type and data segments containing recorded information.

NDEF records are encoded using either Miller or Manchester encoding, modulated at 106 kbit/s, to comply with the National Foundation for Cryptologic Coding specification. Furthermore, NFC allows for additional data such as security details or human-readable descriptions to be encoded with these formats.

Rewritable NFC tags are small stickers equipped with microcircuitry. In order to alter their data, rewriting requires both an NFC-enabled smartphone and an appropriate tag writing app, such as NFC Tools in Google Play and Shortcuts on iOS.

What Is An NFC Reader?

NFC readers are powered devices that use electricity to produce an electromagnetic field around themselves, which in turn attracts NFC tags when within range. When these tags come within proximity, inductive coupling between their coils (Faraday’s law of induction) occurs and data exchange occurs using Manchester Coding.  This technique converts binary information into human-readable form instantly, making its contents instantly accessible by users of devices that support NFC technology.

NFC technology can be found in contactless payment terminals, public transport access gateways, smartwatches and wearable devices, such as tickets or wearable devices with NFC passive tags attached. When used for a transaction with one of these devices, an NFC reader sends out signals to an NFC passive tag in the ticket or wearable device.  Next, an NFC controller chip activates a payment app on phone or watch in response and makes an in-app payment via contactless technology.

NFC works at close range, which makes it less susceptible to the security risks posed by Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi networks, which often require multiple steps for devices to connect and authenticate themselves.  This may include manual device discovery/synchronization/patching, passwords or device pairing. Furthermore, operating within short distance limits the possibility of digital pickpocketing attacks.

However, it should be remembered that NFC does not guarantee security.  Cybercriminals may still use it to access user devices and steal credit card or other sensitive data from them, thus necessitating taking all available measures for protecting NFC-enabled devices with updated security patches.

Users should update their devices regularly and be vigilant of any suspicious activity on their phones or smartwatch. NFC can be an extremely beneficial asset to have at your fingertips.  It enables a variety of features on mobile phones and smartwatches alike. 

NFC Stands

An NFC stand, also known as an NFC dock or holder, is a simple yet powerful tool designed to hold and position NFC-enabled devices securely. These stands are usually made of durable materials such as plastic, metal, or even wood, ensuring stability and longevity. The primary purpose of an NFC stand is to facilitate convenient and hands-free usage of NFC-enabled devices, like smartphones or tablets, in various scenarios.

One of the most common applications of an NFC stand is in the retail industry. With the increasing popularity of mobile payments, many businesses have adopted NFC technology to provide seamless and secure transactions for their customers. An NFC stand can be strategically placed at the point of sale, allowing customers to tap their NFC-enabled devices to make quick and contactless payments. This not only enhances the overall customer experience, but also streamlines the checkout process, reducing waiting times and increasing efficiency.

Moreover, NFC stands find utility beyond retail environments. They can be used as convenient holders for smartphones or tablets when used in conjunction with NFC-based applications. For instance, in a smart home setup, an NFC stand can be placed near the entrance to trigger various actions upon tapping the device. This could include turning on lights, adjusting temperature settings, or even playing personalized welcome messages. By keeping the device in a designated stand, users can ensure easy access and quick interaction with their smart home system.

Another notable application of NFC stands is in the healthcare sector. Medical professionals can utilize NFC stands to securely hold their NFC-enabled devices, such as tablets or smartphones, during patient consultations. This allows them to access patient records, update information, or even share educational resources without the need to physically hold the device. The hands-free operation provided by NFC stands helps maintain a hygienic environment while ensuring efficient workflow. 

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