Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NFC - Near Field Communication

NFC definition

Near field communication, or NFC
, permits quick exchange of small amounts of data between mobile devices, personal computers, and smart objects. A smartphone or tablet with an NFC chip could make a credit card payment or serve as keycard or ID card. NFC devices can read NFC tags on a museum or retail display to get more information or an audio or video presentation. NFC can share a contact, photo, song, application, or video or pair Bluetooth devices.
The technology allows wireless communications over a small distance (10 cm or almost 4 inches). In practice, this means that when a user brings an NFC-enabled device in proximity to an object containing an NFC-sensitive device (i.e., an NFC tag or another NFC-enabled device), the user can retrieve information about that object and in some cases, share information.

The following video contains examples on the use of NFC:

NFC can be used for:
  • Card Emulation: The NFC device acts as a card, such as a credit card or gift card.
  • Reader Mode: The NFC device can read certain coding to make the device do or display something. This is often used for interactive advertising.
  • Peer-to-Peer Mode: Two NFC devices can communicate and share information with each other.
  • Mobile Ticketing: Public transportation tickets are stored on your device. You then hold your device next to the NFC initiator and it will recognize your ticket.
  • Smart poster: Similar to Reader Mode. The device can grab information from an outdoor billboard while you are driving.
  • Bluetooth pairing: NFC can make bluetooth pairing very simple. Just hold the two devices right next to each other and they will automatically pair and connect via Bluetooth.
Here are some more uses that could be developed in the future:
  • Electronic Ticketing: Similar to Mobile Ticketing, which is used for public transportation. Instead of transportation, Electronic Ticketing will allow tickets for concerts, events, and even airlines to be stored on your device and recognized by the NFC initiator.
  • Electronic money: Similar to Card Emulation where the device acts as a credit card. However, Electronic money will allow the device to act as a wallet with actual cash. The device will hold a certain cash balance and when you use Electronic money, the payment will be subtracted from the cash balance on the device. This balance can sync to a bank account, PayPal, and other like services.
  • Identity documents: Drivers licenses, green cards, and other identity documents can be stored on the device and recognized by an NFC initiator. This could be useful when places ask for an ID. Instead of handing them your ID, you can just hold your phone next to the NFC initiator.
  • Electronic Keys: Some newer cars have special keys that, when close enough to the car, will automatically unlock the car without ever having to take the key out of your pocket. NFC can replace these keys and do this same function with your phone. It can replace car keys, house/office keys, hotel keys, and other keys.
  • Initiate Wireless Connections: Similar to Bluetooth pairing. NFC can automatically initiate a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Ultra-wideband connection between two devices when they are held next to each other.

NFC tags

NFC tags are passive devices that can be used to communicate with active NFC devices (an active NFC reader/writer). The NFC tags can be used within applications such as posters, and other areas where small amounts of data can be stored and transferred to active NFC devices. Within the poster the live area can be used as a touch point for the active NFC device.

The stored data on the NFC tag may contain any form of data, but common applications are for storing URLs from where the NFC device may find further information. In view of this only small amounts of data may be required. NFC tags may also be used.

There is currently different opinions regarding the possible replacement of QR codes by NFC tags. In a recent Ad Age article, Dave Wieneke argued that QR codes are a dead-end, transitional technology, to be quickly replaced by Near Field Communication (NFC).

NFC Forum

Formed in 2004, the Near Field Communication Forum (NFC Forum) promotes sharing, pairing, and transactions between NFC devices and develops and certifies device compliance with NFC standards. The 140 NFC Forum members include LG, Nokia, Huawei, HTC, Motorola, NEC, RIM, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, AT&T, Sprint, Rogers, SK, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Intel, TI, Qualcomm, and NXP.

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