Tech Jargon 101: Near Field Communication (NFC)
How well do you really understand Near Field Communication? Here is a breakdown of the term.


July 10, 2012 By Fred Harding

NFC is another one of those great industry acronyms we all (should) know and love. It stands for Near Field Communication and refers to the use of a personal cell phone or similar device as a way to transmit information back and forth with a fixed source. With an NFC-equipped phone, a user can use their cell phone for a myriad of activities where in past, separate cards or keys were needed.

CI has asked an experience integrator, Fred Harding of distributor Capitol Sales, to define NFC and as a failsafe, Debbie Arnold, NFC Forum director to fact-check.

Here is what Harding had to say with Arnold’s comments inserted.

NFC is a very short-range communications standard. That range, from actual touching to between 4 and 20 cm, is used as a technological benefit by providing security from inadvertent scans as you walk through a crowded city.

NFC devices operate on the 13.56mhz band, and are capable of transmitting between 106 and 424 kilobits per second. One- or two-way communication is available, depending on application requirements and technical deployment. Targets for the readers can be passive devices, operating as reflectors of the signal from the handheld device. That broadens application possibilities for the technology.

Applications that are currently deployed around the world using NFC include payment options. In some parts of the world, employers pay employees by putting credits onto the NFC enabled chip set on the employee’s phone. The employee can than go and purchase items securely at a variety of vendors or service providers without having to travel to a bank to cash a check.

NFC works well as a means to gain admittance to public transportation systems, including busses, subways, and airplanes. That application also lends itself well to event ticketing at sporting, concerts or other cultural events. In commercial installations, the smartphone could replace a proximity card as a way to gain access to secure buildings.

A potentially large market that NFC is working with is the healthcare arena. Consider an elderly person at home, who could transmit information daily indicating they are up and about. Depending on the applications that develop, they could do simple medical tests to check for blood pressure or insulin levels, and communicate that to a remote care provider for monitoring purposes.

In the retail world, NFC can be used as a way to acquire and transfer coupons at the store, and to pay for purchases through a scanne-equipped cash register. If you want to give feedback on how a store or restaurant performed that day, you could, and new customers could use that cache of information to help them decide whether they want to eat or buy at that facility.

In a business networking world, NFC technology would easily allow you to exchange business card information by simply touching a cell phone device to a reader or another cell phone.

NFC technology can also be deployed to speed connection between the cell phone and a blue tooth headset, or to assist in logging onto local WiFi networks.

As with many emerging technologies, a trade consortium has been organized. Over 160 companies have joined the NFC forum to work to develop and further the standards. Since it’s a worldwide format, the technology will provide for more uniformity in engineering of devices. That’s welcome news for all in the commercial integration world.

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About the author

Fred Harding handles technical sales and design at Capitol Sales.
View all posts by Fred Harding
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