Wireless communication has become a common part of the majority of the technological infrastructure. While using wired connections only for very valuable and secure systems, the rest relies on wireless. A very popular and upcoming wireless technology is NFC. Used in smartphones, AIDC, Laptops, Monetary Transactions, etc. So, we thought, today we could talk about everything you need to know about near field communication.
What is NFC Technology?
NFC stands for Near-Field Communication, it is a classification of wireless communication & data transfer technology. Like most wireless systems, these use radio waves to facilitate data transfer between systems/devices. It is names NFC, due to its working principle, meaning, it operates using the near field of a radio signal/antenna.
Let’s check out what the near field means.
Definition of a Near-Field
Any wireless system that uses radio waves, requires an antenna to propagate and receive said radio waves. An antenna receives electric current at a particular frequency from the transmitter/transponder, making the electrons inside the antenna vibrate at that particular frequency. The energy from these electrons propagates through free space in the form of electromagnetic radiation (known as radio waves). But, what is near the field?
Every antenna creates a field of influence around it while broadcasting a signal. The range of this field/zone depends on various factors like the power output of the antenna, gain (angle of the wave), etc. This zone of influence can be further divided into two different parts, depending on how other devices communicate with the antenna's signal. Near-Field refers to the initial zone just next to the actual antenna, it is usually considered to extend from 5 to 10 centimeters from the antenna.
However, the functional range of these systems can slightly differ depending on the antenna dimensions, operational frequency, and power input/output.
What is Required for Near Field Communication?
There are very field requirements for an effective NFC system, these include – An NFC transponder, Antenna, Receiving Device, and Compatible Software. Depending on the type of system, these devices can differ. For example, in smartphones, there is an integrated NFC antenna connected to a transponder chip, and the software is already incorporated into the smartphone’s OS.
On the other hand, for AIDC purposes, you will require an RFID reader connected to an NFC antenna, like the A1115 NFC UHF Antenna, NFC tags, and a computer to operate the system with.
How Does NFC Technology Works?
By now, you probably realize that NFC is a subset of RFID technology or at least very similar to it. RF systems usually have two methods of operating, these are known as radiative coupling and inductive coupling. Radiative couple occurs when a tag is in the far field of an antenna. And you guessed correctly, in the case of NFC systems, they communicate using Inductive Coupling. So, let’s discuss what exactly it is.
As the name suggests, inductive coupling involves inducing something into the system. Usually, NFC tags do not have their own power supply. This is done so they can be small, affordable, and long-lasting. Meaning, they require a little assistance to communicate data. Inductive coupling refers to the induction of an electrical charge into the tag and uses that to facilitate communication. When a tag is inside the near field on an antenna, the radio signals are powerful enough to induce sufficient electric current into the tag, using the principle of electromagnetic induction.
On the tag is powered up, it uses this energy to broadcast a signal using an integrated antenna. This signal carries the information stored inside the tag. This is the way; an NFC system communicates.
Types of Near Field Communication Methods
If you’ve been carefully reading, by now you probably know that NFC technology can operate in many different ways. Therefore, we have developed three distinct types of systems that use near field communication technology to operate.
(A). Read/Write Mode
As we already mentioned above, tags and stickers lack an individual power supply, meaning that they cannot operate freely. These have internal storage (flash memory) that can be programmed. This is where near field communications technology comes in.
The tags need to have the power to be programmed & reprogrammed. NFC devices use inductive coupling to power up the tags and can then read/write new information on the tags/stickers. For example, using FOB keys, Tags, and ID cards for access control systems.
(B). Peer to Peer Connection
This is the second type of NF technology available in the market. It is also known as P2P connection/communication. A peer refers to two or more equipotent participants/devices in a digital network. In simple terms, two electronic devices with similar capabilities in terms of networking, like smartphones. P2P connections allow two NFC devices to communicate and transfer data wirelessly when they are in close proximity.
For example, many smartphones come with inbuilt data transfer applications nowadays, that do not use Bluetooth. These applications rather, utilize near field communication technology to function.
(C). Card Emulation Mode
Lastly, using this technology, a user can operate their devices as makeshift card readers. Card emulator mode allows your device to communicate the data from your sim or storage card using NFC.
Applications of NFC Technology
There are a vast number of applications for near field communication technology in today’s environment. From credit cards to smartphones, this technology facilitates easy data transfer wirelessly.
So, let’s talk about the most popular applications of this technology.
(A). Contactless Payment
This is the most common use of this technology, that almost everyone is intimately aware of. If you have gotten a Debit/Credit card in the past 2 years, chances are there is a Wi-Fi symbol on it. This symbol denotes that the card is capable of contactless transactions. These cards have an NFC inlay inside of them, that can communicate with the reader inside the payment machine and conduct transactions.
Most smartphones nowadays use this technology to transfer data and communicate with compatible systems. With the right software, users can even use their smartphones as key FOBs. It can also help you conduct contactless transactions, in the same way as bank cards.
(C). Automatic Identification & Data Collection
How can we forget to mention this? AIDC has become a steadily growing part of industrial operations & supply chain management. And NFC technology plays a significant part in AIDC operations. With this technology, users can easily conduct asset identification & tracking operations in industries like manufacturing, retail, warehouse, etc.
(D). Access Control
Security is an essential aspect of running any organization, with all the important documents, valuable items/products, etc. To ensure the safety and security of the premises, organizations can implement access control systems that work with near field communication technology. These systems use an ID card with inlays inside them that store the identification information of employees & visitors. In addition, these cards can also be used to create a hierarchy of access authentication levels among organizations.
A very common use of this technology is in aviation. In an airport, every personnel aside from passengers is issued an AEP (Airport Entry Pass). These passes use NFC technology to only allow the personnel access to the parts of the airport that are consistent with their position/job role. For example, a cargo pilot’s AEP will only allow access to the cargo zone and cargo hanger of the entire airport.
(E). Automating/Smart Offices
Lastly, we can use this technology for automating/operating smart office systems. For example, connecting devices like air conditioners, and lights with a centralized system and connecting that system to an NFC antenna. So, whenever authorized personnel enter the room all the devices turn on automatically.
The Benefits & Limitations of NFC
Now that we are done with all the technical aspects of this technology, it’s time to get down to the brass tacks. And discuss the pros and cons of using this technology. This will help you assess whether this technology is right for your needs.
- Unlike other methods of data collection and wireless communication like biometric systems, NFC is generally very inexpensive to implement.
- It is also very easy to use and does not require extensive training.
- NFC is compatible with many other technologies, both old and new, like RFID.
- Operates on a higher frequency, therefore, provides far better data transfer speeds than Bluetooth.
- Provides a stable connection and connects fast, i.e., it is efficient.
- The biggest issue with this technology is that it has a severely limited range of operations. As mentioned before, near field communication technology only has a working range of 5 to 10 centimetres in most cases.
- Although it is faster than Bluetooth, still, its data transfer rate is a lot slower than other technologies like Wi-Fi.
- Due to the higher frequency and larger power output, NFC technology consumes a lot of energy. Thus, reducing the battery life of a device.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What does near field communication do?
Near-field communication allows devices to communicate and transfer data wirelessly, using radio signals.
Q2. What are two applications of NFC?
There are a number of applications of this technology, as already mentioned above. But two of the most popular applications are contactless payments and peer-to-peer data transfer.
Q3. Does NFC use Internet?
- Last updated on Jul 12, 2023