What is NFC? How does NFC work?

You must have heard about NFC sometime or the other. NFC is the technology used in contactless cards, mobile devices, fastags, payment systems, etc. The use of NFC technology in Smartphones is increasing very fast. Earlier this type of technology was available only in expensive smartphones, but nowadays it has started coming in midrange phones as well. Even payment apps like Samsung Pay and Google Pay have started using NFC technology.

On hearing the word NFC, the question must have come to your mind after all this is NFC, what is the thing and how does it work? You do not need to go anywhere else to find the answer to this question. In today’s article, you will get to understand all the information related to NFC very well. Then without delay, let’s go ahead and know about what is NFC and how it works.

What is NFC

NFC stands for “Near Field Communication”, whose job is to establish communication between electronic devices in a close area. NFC is a wireless technology used over short distances based on certain standards, which simplifies and facilitates the lives of consumers around the world by facilitating transactions, the exchange of digital content, and communication between electronic devices. Through this technique, we can exchange data between two devices, up to a distance of 4-5 cm. NFC is an upgrade to the existing proximity card standard RFID, which creates an interface between a smart card and a reader within a single device. It allows the user to share content seamlessly between digital devices, pay bills wirelessly and make their smartphone an electronic traveling ticket for public transportation.

There are two types of NFC devices:

(1) Passive NFC Devices

(2) Active NFC Devices

Passive NFC Devices: Passive devices do not have any kind of power source and only connect with active devices. They take power through radio waves emanating from active devices. Here the active device emits radio waves and the passive device receives them and sends the signal back. The passive device transmits its identity and information to the active device with these signals. For example interactive signs on walls and advertisements, smart labels, file tracking, etc.

Active NFC Devices: Active devices have their own power source. They can send and receive data by switching between the normal active (transmitting) state and the passive (receiving) state. The best example of this is smartphones, where data is shared between two devices using NFC technology. Contactless payment terminals and public transport card readers are also good examples of active devices.

How does NFC work

NFC is a short-range technology that uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) standards. This technology enables short-range communication between two compatible devices. It requires two devices, one to transmit the signal (Active NFC device), and the other to receive the signal (Passive NFC device). Magnetic coupling is used to send and receive signals in NFC technology. When two NFC-enabled devices come in contact with each other within a distance of 5-6 cm, they produce an electromagnetic field between them. With the help of this electromagnetic field, the active device establishes communication with the passive device by powering it up. Here the active device receives the variation level of the signals received from the particular passive device and reads them as a signal. Through the detector and decoder circuit in the active NFC device, the signals from the passive NFC device are understood and the appropriate information is extracted. Now, this information is read by an application or host computer, and the next step is taken.

NFC technology also works on the principle of sending information via radio waves like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and all other wireless signals. The data transmission frequency in NFC is 13.56 Megahertz. Where you can transfer data at a speed of 106 kbps, 212 kbps, or 424 kbps.

The NFC standard has three different modes of operation:

Peer-to-peer mode

Read/Write Mode

Card emulation mode

Peer-to-peer mode – Allows two NFC-enabled devices to share information with each other. It is also called two-way communication. In this mode, both the devices keep switching between active while sending data and passive while receiving.

Read / Write Mode – We can also call this one-way data transmission. In this, the active device, such as your smartphone, connects with another device and receives information from it. It is used in NFC advertising tags.

Card emulation mode – Here NFC device is used as a smart or contactless credit card to make payments. In addition, it is also used in the public transportation system.

What is the read range of NFC devices?

Due to the need to create a magnetic field, the read range of NFC devices is between 1 cm to 10 cm.

How to use NFC in smartphones?

You do not need to do any manual pairing or device search, like Bluetooth or wifi, to transfer data through NFC. As soon as two NFC devices come in contact with each other at a distance of 10 cm, they automatically connect and start communication, during which the devices start sending signals to the user. Let us know how NFC is used.

To share data – If you have NFC enabled smartphone and you bring it within range of another NFC-enabled smartphone then you will get a message asking you to beam the contents. After you allow the sharing of files (videos, photos, audio, or contact information) between both devices will start.

As a Digital Wallet – As soon as you bring your smartphone in range of a contactless reader or payment point, then your digital wallet or passbook will ask to confirm the payment. If you confirm then the payment will be successful.

For Bluetooth Speakers – If you have Bluetooth speakers equipped with NFC, all you have to do is a simple tap on your phone and you can enjoy music wirelessly on the speakers. It’s much easier to connect here than with normal Bluetooth speakers.

To start a PC remotely – You can easily start your computer remotely with the help of an NFC tag and smartphone. For this, you have to download some Android apps like Tasker, WoL Wake on LAN, and Trigger on your smartphone. You have to do some settings on your Windows computer and keep your phone on the desk. Now as soon as you switch on the power button on your smartphone, your computer will automatically start.

How to find out if your Android or Apple Smartphone has NFC?

To check whether your Android phone has NFC or not, follow the steps given below: First of all, go to “Settings” on your phone Then click on “More or Settings” Now Click on “Wireless & Networks” If you see NFC option here then it means NFC in your smartphone. In today’s smartphones, the NFC logo is also given on the rear panel, so that you can detect NFC from outside also.

Some of the advantages of NFC technology are as follows:

  • Through NFC, you can easily make cashless payments with the help of a wallet app on your smartphone.
  • It can be used for multiple applications, such as business cards, booking of tickets, reservations, banking, entry/exit passes, etc.
  • It is convenient for both customers and enterprises.
  • To establish connectivity in this, there is no need to search or pair the device with Bluetooth or another wireless connection.
  • It is compatible with existing RFID networks.
  • It provides secure access to the students and employees on their premises.
  • It is more secure than magnetic strip-based debit and credit cards. A PIN is also used in this.
  • For this, no special software or app is required. Apart from this, there is no need for any kind of manual configuration and settings.
  • NFC can also be used for staff communication at a workplace.
  • You can extract all the information on your phone through a simple touch from a smart business card or poster.

Some of the disadvantages of NFC technology are as follows:

  • It works over very short distances, as its range is only up to 10 cm.
  • It is very expensive for companies to adopt NFC-enabled devices.
  • In this, the data transfer rate is very low, which is 106 or 212, or 424 kbps.
  • It is not more beneficial for the users because of the complex procedures as compared to other easy options.
  • NFC-enabled devices have high power consumption.
  • Although it is more secure than a credit/debit-based card system, still it is not completely risk-free. Because hacking smartphones have become quite common nowadays due to advanced tools and techniques, which provide complete access to smart devices.

What are the uses of NFC technology?

From what we have read above, it has been understood what is NFC and how it works, and along with its use in the smartphone, we also understood its advantages and disadvantages. Now we will know in which areas and how NFC technology is used. So let’s get started.

For Contactless Card Payment – With the help of NFC enabled device, you can convert your smartphone into a digital wallet. Here you neither have to swipe the card nor count the cash. Just wave your smartphone on the NFC-enabled payment desk and your payment will be done. As soon as the payment is successful, you will get a mail instead of a paper receipt. In the coming days, such payment services will emerge in large numbers.

For Easy Transportation – NFC works with almost all contactless readers and smartcards, which means it can be easily incorporated into public transport payment systems that also use smart card swipes.

For Healthcare Activities – It must have been a bit strange to hear how there can be a relationship between Health and NFC, but this is true. The use of NFC is also very helpful for healthcare activities. It provides greater accuracy and convenience while prescribing the medicine. It also helps in tracking the details of a particular patient at the time of check-in for doctors and nurses. Using this, medical professionals can easily check schedules and access medical equipment.

Theft Control – Using NFC tags, you can protect valuable things from being stolen. If an object has a smart tag attached to it and that object will pass near any RFID proximity, then the alarm will start sounding.

In Logistics and Shipping – NFC technology is also widely used in the logistics and shipping industries. Here the goods can be monitored and tracked using RFID/NFC tags. Using this reduces the chances of error.

In Manufacturing Industries – Smart/NFC tags are used in modern manufacturing industries. With the help of this, the product can be identified at any stage during the process. The product can also be tracked during shipment with NFC tags. NFC tags provide a unique identification number to the products which helps to manage them well. Also, it can be used for the warranty period, service, and maintenance of the product.

For Smart Inventory Management – With the help of NFC or RFID tags, we can do inventory management in a better way. By updating the smart inventory management software in real-time, we can get information in advance like the number of items kept in stock and when they are going to expire.

For Keyless Access – You can use NFC tags to access restricted areas and doors. Also, you can use it to access identification badges and vehicles as well.

For advertising – NFC can be used to find information and money-saving offers from a smart business card or poster. For this, an NFC tag or chip is put in the poster or card where you can easily extract information related to a business or product by reading it with the help of your NFC-enabled device.