Near-field communication: what is it and how does it work?
What is near-field communication?
Near-field communication (NFC) is a technology that enables the exchange of digital content, making payments, and connecting digital devices via touching or just nearing one another. This connectivity technology performance is possible due to the short-range wireless data exchangers implemented in smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, and payment cards. The first use of NFC technology was announced in 2004.
With the use of near-field communication, almost any information can be transferred between devices with a single touch. With the advent of this technology, paying bills, exchanging business cards, downloading coupons, or sharing other data became much more accessible.
How does it work?
Near-field communication is based on Radio Frequency Identification or the RFID and uses a base frequency of 13.56 MHz. Specific sensors are integrated into small gadgets and enable data exchange through touching or nearing one device to another. The wavelength is usually 10 cm max, and the data transfer rate is about 106 Kbps – 848 Kbps. After the contact, radio signals read or register the data stored in the so-called transponders or NFC tags.
What are near-field communication tags?
NFC tags may be present in advertising booklets, signs, and posters. It is enough to bring the phone close to the mark, and the information will be displayed on the screen. Moreover, such tags contain much more data than a QR code, and it's not necessary to turn on the camera. In addition, such a tag can be programmed for any action. For instance, it can be stuck on an office desktop so that a smartphone, once on it, switches to silent mode and does not distract its user from work.
Benefits of near-field communication
The NFC technology gained popularity due to its main benefit – making the lives of millions easier. This type of digital communication allowed consumers across the globe to pay for goods and services with their phones, bracelets, or even rings. Thanks to this, carrying cards or cash all the time became unnecessary. More to this, the technology is contactless, and it has become another plus in pandemic times.
- speed of the connection between objects – the process takes seconds;
- small size of the device;
- low power consumption.
Where is near-field communication used?
New models of smartphones are convenient to use as electronic wallets. To pay for goods or services, users should attach the phone to the terminal. The chip on the phone connects with the POS terminal, and the payment is made. But possibilities of contactless communication are essential not only for payments. They are much broader and more diverse: receiving and transmitting data, using a phone as a digital key, wireless charging, biometric identification of a person, etc.
At present, near-field communication solutions are already being applied in many areas. For instance, this technology is used to book and sell e-tickets, pay for public transport and car parking. NFC technology is also actively used in services and entertainment, security and access control. Thus, the near-field communication technology is compatible with the already existing infrastructure of contactless cards used in public transport and payment systems.
Usually, mobile phones act as carriers of near-field communication microchips because they are in massive use, individual, and most importantly, inseparable from their owners. Such mobile phones serve as a means of payment (virtual wallet), identification, a key, a bonus card, or a ticket.
With this in mind, the four most popular uses of this technology in mobile phones have been developed:
- Card emulation. A device supporting near-field communication can act as a pass, allowing users to open doors in an office, hotel, or apartment, go through a turnstile in an office, at an airport, use personal or public transport.
- Reading mode. Users can read a passive tag, for example, interactive advertising or information in a booklet or a poster.
- P2P mode. Two users can communicate and exchange information quickly using devices supporting near-field communication technology.
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