Near Field Communications

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a wireless technology, much like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which has a range of about ten centimeters.  To use NFC, a device must contain an embedded NFC antenna.  NFC enabled devices can communicate with each other and share small amounts of data, but the possibilities for applications of this technology are endless.

Most uses for NFC are arising in the form of allowing smartphones to transfer and receive data from objects such as advertisements, product packaging, vending machines and card readers at checkout counters.  Some smartphones that contain NFC are the Google Nexus S, the Galaxy S II,and several other Samsung, Nokia and Blackberry phones.

The Gritty Tech Details

NFC is a technology that uses radio frequency to transfer and receive data.  It operates in the unlicensed ISM band of 13.56 MHz.  NFC has very little bandwidth and only supports certain low data rates.

Several different modes of NFC exist.  The device containing an NFC antenna can either be active or passive, which simply means that it can initiate data transmissions that come to it, or just accept and reply to the transmissions.

Security is a major concern with the growing use of NFC.  Some say that because NFC is a short range communication technology, anyone trying to steal personal information would have to be within the range of ten centimeters to intercept it.  However, a hacker might be able to use a larger antenna or a more sensitive receiver.  In order to use NFC to pay for items using your credit card, more security than just the range aspect needs to be present.

NFC and Your Wallet

Although NFC is not new, many new ideas have surfaced recently, the most prominent being Google Wallet, an Android app you can use to pay for purchases on your phone instead of using a plastic card.  Many stores today have NFC readers that can process your credit card information from your NFC enabled smartphone.  To use these readers, you must download Google Wallet, which can be used with Citi MasterCard or a Google Prepaid Card.

When using the app, a PIN is required at the checkout counter before making a purchase.  Additionally, the credit card information being sent over the airwaves is encrypted before being sent.  Card information is stored on the smartphone in a secure chip that only communicates with the Google Wallet app.

If you have an NFC enabled Android smartphone, try Google Wallet.  Google Wallet works in a collection of Burger Kings, Krogers and convenience stores around Nashville.  To find out where it works in your area, visit www.google.com/wallet and enter your zip code.

 

NFC and the World of Potential

The most prevalent application for NFC today uses the short range wireless connection to read information from an NFC chip in an advertisement.  For instance, let’s say a poster contains a NFC enabled chip.  When a person with a NFC smartphone brings the phone close to the poster, a URL is sent to the person’s phone, allowing them to view a video related to the poster online.

Another use of NFC is device pairing.  NFC does not have enough bandwidth to send data such as pictures or music, but it allows the pairing process to be simpler.  A user could connect using NFC and then transfer content through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Other potential use cases for NFC technology are health care applications.  The possibilities are endless, and can range from a NFC chip holding patients’ medical records to recording when a doctor or nurse visits the room.

Sources:

http://mashable.com/2010/05/06/near-field-communication/

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/05/wired-nfc-faq/

http://gizmodo.com/5707321/what-is-near+field-communication

http://events.iaik.tugraz.at/RFIDSec06/Program/papers

www.nfc-hub.com/

www.nfc-forum.org

www.arrownac.com/services-tools/design/whitepapers/near_field_communication.pdf

http://news.cnet.com

Cody Newbold holds a degree in Computer Engineering Technology from Middle Tennessee State University and is employed by a consumer electronics company in Nashville, TN.

 


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