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Near Field Communication (NFC)

Last updated: July 22, 2022

What Does Near Field Communication (NFC) Mean?

Near-field communication (NFC) is a low-power wireless communication technology that allows two NFC-compatible devices to exchange data or power when they're brought within two centimeters of each other. NFC chips, which are also called tags, do not require internet access.

NFC is as extension of RFID and is backwards-compatible with existing RFID technology. The technology is commonly used to support contactless payment systems and wirelessly charge wearable computing devices. For example, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay all use NFC to create a frictionless checkout experience for smartphone users . Other popular use cases for NFC include:

  • Recording start and end times for hourly employees.
  • Taking attendance.
  • Delivering store coupons in real time to opt-in customers.
  • Providing key card access for buildings and hotel rooms.

Near-field communication is considered to be more user friendly than Bluetooth, another well-known technology for transmitting data over short distances, because NFC is completely frictionless and does not require manual pairing. NFC is also significantly more energy-efficient than Bluetooth.

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Techopedia Explains Near Field Communication (NFC)

NFC operates on the principles of short-range inductive coupling. When two NFC-enabled devices are in close proximity they generate a magnetic field that in turn, creates a wireless electric current that can be used to transfer data or power. Near Field Communication operates over a 13.56 MHz radio frequency and can transfer data at a rate of 424 Kbit/s. NFC protocols are based on RFID standards and are outlined in ISO/IEC 18092.

Near-field communication devices are characterized as being either passive or active, depending upon whether or not they have a power source. Passive NFC devices have no power source and can only write data to active NFC devices. In contrast, active NFC devices have a power source and can send and receive data by switching between operating modes.

NFC has several different operating modes, including:

  • Reader/writer mode – supports one-way communication. NFC-capable devices in this mode are configured to either write data or read data.
  • P2P mode – supports two-way communication. In this mode, NFC-compatible devices are able to transmit data and also read data.
  • Wireless charging mode -- This mode, which can transfer up to 1W of power over a distance of 2cm, is used to charge small digital devices that require low power.
  • Card emulation mode – This mode is used to transfer data one way from an NFC-enabled device to a reader. QR codes can turn an NFC-compatible device in this mode into a contactless ticket.
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