We are all familiar with one or another form of near-field communication-enabled devices. What is near-field communication and applications? Near-field communication is a technology to transfer information between devices in close proximity using RF signals. NFC technology offers a wide range of features, from keyless access to smart tags for medical applications.
The option to implement and embed it into credit cards, smartphones, and other wearable devices makes NFC technology one of the most convenient ones. Let’s look at the NFC technology overview, the applications, and the future of near-field communication.
Near-field communication was developed by Sony, Nokia, and Philips; their combined forum monitors and regulates the NFC standard. Near-field communication operates at a low power, low-frequency range.
Frequency: 13.56 MHz Range: 0 to 10 CM
Specification: ISO/IEC 14443 (For smart cards which store information) and ISO/IEC 18000-3 (For RFID tags in smart devices)
NFC doesn’t require power to operate
Works with inductive coupling
NFC can do two-way communication
NFC Has larger storage space compared to RFID
Suitable for single-device communication
NFC was originally developed to use file transfer purposes between Smartphones using the Android beam
Applications of Near Field Communication
1. Smart Cards
Payment using NFC-integrated smart cards offers easier payment compared to the conventional multiple-step payment process. Top payment services like Visa and MasterCard are offering NFC-embedded smart cards to customers.
NFC-integrated smart cards can be used for fast payments at grocery shops, parking tickets, adding shopping points, redeem coupons with just a single tap of the card. All the major banks around the globe offer smart cards with integrated NFC chips.
2. E-wallet (payment using a smartphone)
Cashless payment systems using mobile devices became popular at the beginning of this decade, and more services are offering cashless payments for customers’ convenience. Using smartphone applications, payments can be made using a simple tap or waving the card within proximity.
Service providers can integrate a payment option into smartphones using an NFC tag embedded inside the device. Apple Pay, Google Wallet (Android Pay), and Samsung Pay are the most popular smartphone payment systems.
Data transfer using the smart device is possible using NFC technology like Android Beam. Two users can share documents, photos, resumes, and business cards by just waving their smartphones.
3. Smart Ticketing
Integrated smart chips can be used to replace traditional ticketing systems with smart tickets for airlines, train and bus tickets, etc. NFC tags can be used for Smart posters, movie tickets, tickets to concerts, advertisements, flyers, and information links.
Customers will be able to access a reserved area or activate tickets by just tapping NFC tags located at the assigned location. More information can be found by just scanning the smart tag.
4. Medicine and Healthcare
NFC-integrated systems can be used in medicine and healthcare activities. NFC offers greater accuracy and convenience in prescribing medicine, easier check-in, payments, checking the status of patients, and tracking records by embedding NFC tags to patient charts.
NFC-integrated devices can be easily paired and configured. Medical professionals can easily check schedules and access medical devices and equipment.
The future of NFC in healthcare is very promising, and many companies have already started investing. Diagnostic tags are under development for monitoring medical conditions like temperature variations, blood glucose level fluctuations, etc.
5. Keyless Access
Keyless access is one of the familiar applications of near-field communications today. NFC’s convenience and easy-to-implement feature make it a popular choice. NFC and RFID tags can be used for access to doors and restricted areas with an auto-detect feature. It can be used to replace access keys and identification badges, and for easier access to cars and other vehicles.
Smart tags are used in modern manufacturing industries to identify each product from its different process stages within the company, packaging, transportation, and tracking of products during shipment. Unique identification numbers allow manufacturers to efficiently manage products in case of return during the warranty period for replacement, service, and maintenance.
7. Logistics and Shipping
NFC and RFID tags can be conveniently used in the logistics and shipping industry. Tracking and scanning of goods using smart tags make the system smart, errorless, and efficient.
8. Smart Inventory Management
Retail shops and large-scale supermarkets can make use of smart RFID tags for better management of inventories in their system. Smart inventory management software can give a real-time update on product details for customers and items in their inventory stock, and it could trigger automatic orders if a particular item has a low quantity. Vendors will get an update on items in high demand, and better service can be provided.
9. Theft control
Another attractive use of RFID tags is theft control. Valuable things can be protected using smart tags. Objects embedded with smart tags will trigger if they pass by RFID proximity (the active area where the RFID transmitter is installed).
10. NFC Information Tags
Similar to QR code scanning using a Smartphone camera, users can access information with NFC tags. If someone wants to access information about a product or service, it can be accessed by just tapping their phone on the NFC smart tag.
These cost-effective NFC smart tags (smart stickers) can be easily pasted on the metal casing, stick on walls, or on any surface.
Future Applications of Near-Field Communication
1. Smart Home
Using NFC and RFID technology, we are able to customize and program a particular application using our smartphone. By just activating an NFC tag, we can control our household equipment, app launching, access/lock doors, set alarm functions, or any particular task using a smartphone.
2. Internet of Things and 5G
IoT and 5G open a window of opportunities for new technologies to emerge. NFC-enabled devices will be required in IoT and 5G-enabled networks for easier implementation and efficiency.
3. Integrated Smartphone Applications
Smart NFC tags can be used to configure smartphone applications like receiving points for a loyalty program, membership access, entry to a restricted area, and many more customized applications.
NFC tags will play an inevitable role in future smart devices for more integrated functions, smart transportation, aviation industry, shipping, and manufacturing industry for automation of particular tasks. Integrating NFC technology with our modern data communication and transaction process ensures convenience, time-saving, energy efficiency, and most importantly, improved security.