Near Field Communication

What is Near Field Communication

Near Field Communciation is a wireless technology designed to work across very short distances – less than 20cms and typically around 5cms. Because the range is so short, it can be used as a payment mechanism and in the near future it is very likely that NFC will be incorporated within mobile phones so that they can act as virtual wallets.

NFC operates at 13.56 MHz and allows information to be transmitted and received at up to 850 kbit/s. NFC signals are usually very weak which assists radio security although it is theoretically possible for a larger, highly amplified antenna to pick up NFC signals from a large distance.

The NFC communications protocol allows for an initiating device that actively generates a Radio Frequency field that is used to power a passive receiver. This protocol then allows simple devices to be interogated without the need for them to incorporate their own power supplies. This saves on manufacturing costs and eliminates the need to replace batteries periodically. Typical uses this include product tags, packaging stickers, and other small objects where it would be impractical to incorporate a battery.

An additional NFC protocol allows NFC devices to communicate directly with each other using their own internal power sources.

NFC technology has been developed chiefly for use in mobile phones and there are three main applications:

  1. Contactless Credit/Debit card emulation allowing payments, typically for small values, to be made by waving the mobile over a payment receptor
  2. Mobile ticketing for public transport, again where payment is made by passing the phone over a payment receptor
  3. Smart advertising posters in which mobile phone users can download information about products on posters etc. by moving their phones into proximity with an activator on the poster

Once NFC starts to be incorporated in mobile devices it is likely to be adopted very quickly on a global basis. The Apple iPhone 5, not near launch at the time of writing, is rumoured to incorporate NFC technology.