What is NFC and Why Should I Care?

NFC Mobile Phone

As NFC technology is becoming more mainstream, as shown by the growth in number of mobile handsets that have this feature, this article will demonstrate why you should use NFC to enrich your everyday life. 

What is NFC?

NFC stands for near field communication, a technology for mobile devices such as smartphones which establishes a radio communication between two devices when they are brought closely together. The standards of NFC cover formats of data exchange as well as communications protocol. They are founded on the standards of radio-frequency identification which includes FeliaCa and ISO/IEC 14443. These standards facilitate contactless electronic money transfer using smart cards and communicating information from identification cards respectively. Nokia, Philips and Sony set up the NFC Forum in 1994 which endorses the use of consumer electronics equipped with NFC technology as well as certifying devices that comply with the standards. As well as setting standards, the NFC Forum aim to implement the standardisation of NFC technology so that devices and services are interoperable where information can be exchanged effortlessly.

Contactless Payments

There are a number of practical uses from utilising NFC technology with your mobile device. Payments can be made from mobile phones that have NFC capability as it is a system that promotes contactless payments. This means that information stored on the device will use RFID in order to transfer payments securely when it is near to a reader at the point of sale. An advantage of using a mobile device to pay for goods is that it is efficient for payments of up to £20 as a signature or PIN is not required every time to authorise the payment. Despite this, contactless payments are as safe as using a credit or debit card as it uses the same chip and PIN system and the fraud guarantee on normal transactions is still valid. For added security, if your NFC enabled mobile device is lost or stolen, you can contact your mobile network operator to deactivate all the NFC services on it so it can’t be used to pay for goods fraudulently. For instance, when buying your morning coffee and newspaper, you just need to put your mobile device near to the reader to pay, without having to spend time finding the right money or entering a PIN, with the knowledge that this way of transferring money is safe.  

Contactless Payments Using NFC Enabled Device

Loyalty Cards

Also in a commerce setting, information such as points on a loyalty scheme can easily be loaded to a device that is NFC enabled. One example of this is the loyalty card programme implemented by a Swedish food retailer, ICA. In this case, when shoppers purchase meals, a “stamp” will be put on the loyalty card on the mobile device and their seventh meal will be free once they have collected six stamps. As people tend to carry their mobile phones with them at all times, it is a convenient way to update a loyalty card at the point of purchase. It is a seamless and intuitive process and will ensure that shoppers will not miss out on getting loyalty points because they have left their loyalty card at home. NFC technology will enable you to take advantage of special promotions at the till which will not involve filling in forms or looking for the shop specific loyalty card to swipe through the card reader. By just waving your mobile device at the reader, you will save time and benefit from using a loyalty card.

Exchanging Data Between Devices

NFC can be used to establish Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections wirelessly so that data can be exchanged. The main benefit of this is that wireless connections can be set up simply and quickly. For example, on devices that are NFC enabled, Nokia has used the technology to pair up Bluetooth headsets with speakers using just one tap of the device. This saves time because otherwise you would need to find out how to attach wires and cords to listen to the audio coming through the Bluetooth headset via speakers. The Android operating system for mobile devices enables and establishes a Bluetooth connection automatically when files are being transferred. Furthermore, when two NFC enabled devices are put closely together, data can be transferred between them. The advantage of this type of transfer is that it uses less power than Bluetooth and no password is required to set this up, which means it is quick and easy to complete share files.

Social Interaction

Exchanging data easily between family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances is possible with NFC technology. Social interactions where information such as contact details and files can be shared when two mobile devices are NFC enabled and are placed in close proximity to each other. Checking in to a place is also possible and will let your friends know where you are. In addition to this, users of these mobile devices can play multiplayer games with others for entertainment purposes. For example, the popular mobile game Angry Birds can be played with other gamers that have mobile devices that uses NFC technology. The game has been renamed to Angry Birds Magic to show that users can play with their friends that have NFC enabled devices too. By tapping the phones together, players can unlock new levels to throw angry birds to destroy pigs in various structures in this fun and addictive game.  In fact, the Nokia C7 already had Angry Birds Magic installed on the mobile device as it is NFC enabled.

Automating Tasks and Finding Out More Information

On a smartphone with NFC technology, tasks on the device can be automated if they have been set to do so using an NFC app when it is linked to NFC tags. For instance, once NFC is activated it will launch a specific app or a phone setting will change, such as putting the sound profile for calls and notifications from silent to loud. A NFC tag can be placed virtually anywhere and can also be read by swiping a device equipped with NFC to show more information. For example, reading a NFC tag on a film poster could show you what times it is being shown at the closest cinema. You would save time and effort in finding this information out than if you were to research on the internet or call the cinema as you already have your NFC enabled device to bring out that information right there and then.  

Transport

In transport, using NFC technology assists passengers in buying a ticket for a train journey or other similar types of travel. Barriers are opened when users swipe their NFC enabled mobile device against the reader when they have purchased a ticket. Additionally, data on the journeys taken is stored on the device, giving users a way to track the trips they have taken. This system is already widely in use, such as in Hong Kong with the Octopus card where passengers can put money on the card to also pay for goods in participating stores as well as using the Mass Transit Railway. As a result, passengers save time in buying tickets by uploading the right amount of money on the card using NFC technology.

Storing Information

With the advancement of technology in the medical profession, NFC can be used to improve the healthcare system. Patient records can be updated in real time between different practitioners to ensure that the right treatment is administered to ill patients. This means that information is stored effectively and allows doctors and nurses to care for their patients in the best way.  

The NFC Forum endorses the prospective use of NFC enabled mobile devices as an electronic gadget that stores identity data and as a keycard. Potentially, the NFC enabled device would store personal information that could be used to identify the user of the mobile device. Therefore, when you are in those rare situations when you need an official document to prove your identity, such as needing a passport to set up a bank account, your NFC enabled mobile device will already have this data stored. You won’t have to go through the inconvenience of booking another meeting with the bank to get your personal information as it is already at hand.

Keycards

Furthermore, mobile devices that use NFC technology could be employed as a keycard that unlocks doors, like in hotels. Due to the short distance needed for NFC technology to work, this means that encryption is supported for a more secure exchange of data.

Summary

In conclusion, NFC technology enables users to pay for goods, store and exchange digital information and establish connections wirelessly using mobile devices equipped with the NFC feature. Simply, the technology is useful in everyday situations, such as purchasing goods or getting on public transport. It is a way to make daily tasks easier and more convenient along with the ability to share information in an instant by touching two NFC enabled devices together.

At Mobilephones.com, there are several NFC handsets available on contract. This includes the Samsung Galaxy S III in black or white from £26 a month and the HTC One X from £20.50 a month.

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