NFC stands for Near Field Communication and as the name implies, it’s a set of close-range wireless communication standards. NFC-equipped smartphones and other devices can exchange information with each other with a simple tap or wave. Remind you of tap-to-pay credit cards or apps like Paypal “bumping” to transfer money? That’s because NFC is the technology behind many new mobile payments types such as these.
NFC and RFID (radio frequency identification) are sometimes used interchangeably, but NFC is really a newer version or extension of RFID. RFID waves can have very long rangesb(e.g., RFID is the tech that helps highway toll readers read your car’s toll pass), while NFC limits the rangebof communication to within 4 inches. This makes NFC perfect for more secure applications like paying for things or securely logging in at a location. NFC also allows two-way communication, as opposed to RFID’s one-way reading technology. So transferring photos or contacts between devices is a common use of NFC Many smartphones and new laptops have NFC chips. NFC World has an exhaustive list of all the phones around the world that are NFC- equipped (available now, coming soon, with limited availability, and more categories). Google Nexus variants have NFC, as do several BlackBerries, HTC phones, and others. NFC chips are also embedded in “tags,” which are stickers that yourdevice can interact with.
NFC is most commonly associated with the “mobile wallet”—the idea that your smartphone will replace your cash and credit cards. In one tap or wave of your phone, you can pay for your groceries and redeem offers or coupons. Google Wallet , partnering with MasterCard PayPass, is one example. You can store all major credit and debit cards in Google Wallet and get a “virtual MasterCard” that pays for your purchases in-store wherever those PayPass scanners are or online. Beyond mobile payments, though, there are a world of uses for NFC, including:
Getting tickets or boarding passes. Some airlines and buses are also experimenting with using NFC for boarding passes
Opening doors. BMW has NFC- enabled car keys. Companies and universities are looking into or rolling out using NFC-enabled devices as security badges. To gain physical access somewhere, members need only tap their smartphones at the door.
Downloading information. Advertisers and marketers can use NFC chips in porters and other promotional materials so all you have to do to get more information is tap or wave your
phone (easier than QR codes, perhaps).
With programmable tags you can buy, you can tap your phone to a sticker (on your desk, wall, car, or wherever) to automatically change the settings, such as volume or Wi-Fi network, open an app, pair Bluetooth devices, and more. For example, you could switch to car models when you get into your car, turn on the alarm app when you tap your nighstand, turn off the ringer when you get to your desk.
Right now, NFC hasn’t hit the mainstream yet in terms of usage, but it’s the potential that’s made it so popular. If you have an NFC-enabled device, consider getting some NFC tags for it (around $15 for 5) on Amazon and you might be able to make your life easier. Or, if nothing else, you’ll look like a ninja when you fire up your favorite play list with a wave of your phone.