Near-field communication (NFC) technologies first appeared in 1983, even though it wasn’t until 2006 when Nokia introduced the first NFC-enabled mobile phone. Fast forward to 2021, NFC is a ubiquitous feature for many more mobile phone models and electronic devices.
As experts in various fields are more aware of the potential in secure communications and transactions, NFC technologies are recording astounding growth. By 2025, the global NFC market is set to reach USD 35 billion. Since the past year, a contributing factor to this growth is the increasing demand for no-contact technologies, brought upon by the heightened sensitivity about hand hygiene due to COVID-19.
But what exactly makes NFC technologies so uniquely disruptive to so many industries — especially to access and security technologies? This guide to near-field communication answers the top six questions about this revolutionary technology and its day-to-day uses.
1. What is Near-Field Communication?
NFC is most commonly known as the technology behind contactless payment tools such as Android Pay or Apple Pay.
NFC is a wireless data transfer method that detects and then enables technology to communicate without an internet connection. This proximity is typically four centimeters, even though ranges like 10 centimeters are also possible.
As a contactless communication technology, the NFC field uses a radiofrequency of 13.56 MHz, and is based on the ISO14443 or ISO15693 standard.
2. How Does Near-Field Communication Work?
As Tech Radar puts it, NFC works easy, fast, and “automagically”. As it taps into the age-old invention of radiofrequency via chips, NFC doesn’t require a pairing code or a link. Bringing two devices with NFC chips together activates magnetic induction, similar to the process of access cards unlocking certain doors.
While any item with an NFC chip can be used to initiate this magnetic induction, the most common NFC-enabled tools are typically mobile phones. As NFC is standardized worldwide, it can be used widely across all walks of life that rely on data exchange, without a particular app. Yet each NFC chip has a globally unique identification number. This makes every product unique, traceable, and original.
3. How Secure is Near-Field Communication?
Many security experts believe NFC is among the most secure methods of access and data exchange. While it doesn’t require a password, NFC’s short-range safeguards the transactions against hackers. It’s nearly impossible to hack into a centralized radio frequency from such a short distance.
Another safety advantage of NFC is how much it can ease users’ overwhelm: A single NFC chip can combine many heavy items like home, office, car keys, and credit cards. NFC also eliminates the need for memorizing complex passwords. This way, users are much less likely to lose keys, cash, or remember passcodes.
These not only dramatically overhaul the user experience, but also contribute to overall safety.
4. How Does It Differ From Other Touchless Methods?
NFC is far from the only contact-free method of communication between two devices. Yet it’s among the most secure and convenient techniques compared to those like QR codes or Bluetooth.
NFC chips run on meager amounts of power and use even less of them. Hence, NFC is significantly more power-efficient than other wireless communication methods like Bluetooth, even though it’s also more capable.
NFC is a more all-encompassing solution with three modes: It can emulate a card; act as a reader to another NFC chip, and also transfer between two NFC fields like Bluetooth.
Unlike a QR code, NFC technology uses mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets, and notebooks to exchange data. An NFC chip can also make any device an intelligent one; thus, connect the unconnected.
5. What Are Some Applications of Near-Field Communication?
NFC is interoperable, which means it has a unique ability to make everyday devices communicate with phones or computers and each other. This opens a world of opportunities for countless daily applications involving the safe and convenient use of NFC.
In addition to facilitating IoT, mobile payments, and smart homes, NFC is increasingly common in hospitality, medical, consumer goods, logistics, marketing, and automotive.
For instance, according to access and security experts, mobile access facilitated by NFC might significantly reduce the reliance on keys and badges. In many parts of the world, NFC tools are making concert tickets or public transportation tokens moot.
In hospitals, NFC makes physical and digital access for patients more secure and provides real-time updates, and facilitates facility monitoring.
6. What Will the Future Look Like?
Since their first use in mobile phones in 2006, the capabilities of NFC have improved immensely and keeps accelerating. In the future, there’s no doubt NFC will keep making it easier for us to perform a wide range of digitized tasks, resulting in a customer experience advancement. Additionally, experts believe that masses will use NFC data exchange as a preferred method for obtaining publicly available information from physical objects.
Near-field communication is the ultimate connectivity, arguably the most crucial aspect of most everyday interactions and businesses. Thus, from security to the consumer sector, NFC is poised to disrupt any industry that relies on connectivity.