What Everybody Ought to Know About NFC

If you like QR codes, then you'll love the potential of NFC, which stands for Near Field Communication. It is another cutting edge technology with a ton of potential. Mashable thinks your smartphone will replace your wallet, thanks to NFC. Goodbye "click-to-purchase," welcome the evolution of the "tap-to-pay" infrastructure.

Near Field Communication is a wireless technology that enables the exchange of data between two devices over a 10cm or 4in distance. This is possible with a combination of hardware and software. As the Wikipedia article states, there are 3 different specific uses for NFC:

  • Card emulation: the NFC device (mobile phone) behaves like an existing contactless card. A contactless card is also known as a proximity card. This is mostly used for security access or payment systems. These cards communicate by a radio signal.
  • Reader mode: the NFC device is active and reads an RFID tag (used as a reader). You can scan signs at stores and pull up something on your phone.
  • P2P mode: two NFC devices communicate and exchange information together.

What are the uses?

Think mobile ticketing in public transportation.

Think mobile payments. Your phone is the new credit card.

Think about your phone reading RFID tags on outdoor signs.

Think about opening your hotel door and using your phone as the key.

Sound like Bluetooth technology?

It's similar, but NFC is faster and requires less power. NFC also has shorter range, which reduces interference.

Concerned about security?

NFC offers no protection against eavesdropping and is vulnerable to data modifications. This means that the applications that use NFC must used cryptographic protocols (like SSL) to establish a secure channel. For more specifics on security, check out the Wikipedia page. Eric Schmidt said that using your smartphone as your credit card is actually more secure than using a credit card.

The Problem

The problem with NFC is the devices that currently support NFC. It's, well, lacking. Already, we're seeing phones that include NFC, such as the Nexus S. Some companies are also working on embedded NFC devices in MicroSD cards so someone can easily plug one into their phone. Visa approved this type of solution. The latest Android version of Android (2.3) already supports mobile payments with NFC.

GoMo News recently wrote an article about how NFC will explode as the biggest operators announce launches. This includes the ISIS platform, which is a national commerce network built by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless. The goal is to utilize mobile phones to make point-of-sale purchases with near-field communication technology.

I imagine NFC will make our lives more convenient and build dependence on our smartphones. It's one more factor that's going to propel the use of smartphones.

What are you most excited about when it comes to NFC? Have you seen or heard of any other uses?

If you have some time, here's a video with Eric Schmidt explaining NFC: