Near-Field Communication (NFC): What Is It and How Does It Work?

Technological advancements affect our daily life in many ways. For example, thanks to online slot machines, we no longer have to go to Las Vegas when we want to try our luck. Instead, we can get the same experience at a much lower cost by playing at an online casino Vegas.

NFC is one of the technologies that change our lives and daily habits. This technology, which enables electronic devices to communicate with each other without any contact, can be used in almost every industry for many different purposes. So, what is NFC and how did it appear? In which industries is it used and what does it promise? Below, we answer all these questions for you.

What Is NFC?

NFC is short for “near-field communication.” It has a much older history than you think: the first patent on the technology it uses was received in 1983. Developed and patented by Charles Walton, RFID (radio-frequency identification) also forms the basis of NFC technology. Do you remember the Star Wars toys produced by Hasbro in the late 90s? When these toys were placed at close range, they could repeat pre-recorded dialogue. From the outside, they seemed to be actually talking to each other.

Since then, NFC technology continues to evolve. As can be seen from the example given above, this technology enables contactless data transfer in a short distance. NFC-capable devices can transfer any data when they are close to each other, and these data can be used to activate a certain function on each device. When we say “close range,” we mean distances of up to 2 cm, so these devices really need to be close to each other.

RFID technology works in a similar way but is rather primitive compared to NFC. It is compulsory to use a radio transponder, radio receiver and transmitter in RFID technology. As can be guessed, it is exceedingly difficult to manufacture and secure all these apparatus to a certain standard. In NFC technology, on the other hand, the related devices communicate with each other via radio waves (they use exactly 13.56 MHz), but it is sufficient to use two simple antennas. Also, they can be emulated unlike RFID: that’s why you can use your smartphones like an NFC device. Below, we will talk about this in more detail.

The Daily Usage of the NFC Technology

There are other technologies that enable contactless communication. Bluetooth, for example, can do the same from a greater range. So, what makes NFC technology superior? Isn’t Bluetooth a better technology? At first glance, you can answer this question yes, but all other contactless communication technologies require a power supply. For example, you cannot communicate via Bluetooth without turning your mobile phone on. However, this is not the case with NFC technology: you can even insert it into a credit card and use it without the need for any power supply.

This also demonstrates the most common use of NFC technology: we use NFC mostly to make contactless payments. Today, almost all debit and credit cards use this technology. When you use your card in a POS machine and pay without contact, you are actually using NFC technology. In this transaction, your card is “passive” and the POS device is “active”: Your card can only send data (cannot receive data), and the POS device can both send and receive data. Using NFC, you can also:

  • Save your credit card number in the wallet application of your smartphone. Modern smartphones are capable of NFC emulation using a technology called Host Card Emulation (HCE). In other words, you can use your phone like your credit card for making contactless payments.
  • With NFC, you can share contacts, send SMS and even share photos and videos. Even if your phone is not connected to the network or Wi-Fi, it can do all this. However, the data transfer rate will be about 400 KB: So, do not expect to make a fast transfer.
  • NFC-enabled devices can also be used for authentication. If you have a workplace where you log in by swiping a card, you use this technology. Even your car keys can work with NFC.

Another issue where NFC is superior to Bluetooth is cost: NFC tags are much cheaper than Bluetooth tags. By 2021, a Bluetooth tag costs an average of $5 USD and requires an external power supply. On the other hand, you can buy an NFC tag for 0.10 USD and use it without a power supply.