NFC: What is it and what is it for?

Surely when buying a mobile phone or making a payment in an establishment you have come across the acronym NFC. You may know what they mean, but you may also not know what they mean. Next, we explain what NFC is and what function it fulfills in mobile terminals.

NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and in Spanish means: “Near Field Communication”. As you may have guessed from its name, it is a wireless communication technology that allows the exchange of data between two devices that are less than 20 cm apart. 

Advances in wireless communication

Unsurprisingly, wireless communications, like other technologies, continue to improve. In this context, when asking NFC, what is it? we have to answer that it is a wireless communications system based on a standard called RFID , which stands for “radio frequency identification”. In this context, mobile phones could not miss out on such technology. Therefore, if we now ask what is the NFC in the mobile? we can say that it is another way to send data packets between devices. In fact, it is a common technology in modern devices such as Samsung mobiles.

However, as it is a radio frequency communication, mobile NFC is not the best option to share a large amount of data or information; Bluetooth is much better for this. The NFC chip is designed to quickly exchange a small amount of data between two devices, so its most common use is usually to make payments.

In this sense, the NFC tag works with a high-frequency wireless technology that works in the 13.56 MHz band, which is why there are also NFC tags on public transport cards, as well as in security systems implemented in shops and other services.

NFC works by creating an electromagnetic field of induction, in which an exchange of data between two devices is generated. As we have explained, it is a system designed for small data exchange, since it only reaches 424 Kbps, so its most common use is focused on the identification and validation of equipment and people.

On the other hand, the strong point of this technology is the speed of data transmission, which can be practically instantaneous, since the devices do not need to be paired, due to the proximity of the devices.

NFC active or passive

NFC technology works in two different ways: active and passive. The active one, in which both devices have an NFC chip, generate an electromagnetic field and exchange data. On the other hand, in passive mode only one of the two devices is active, while the other takes advantage of the field to exchange information, so it has an active NFC reader.

As it is a type of radio frequency communication, there are some security problems , since communications of this type can be intercepted and read quite easily. 

This has its benefits, but also its problems. In the first place, it is a type of transparent communication, since to start the data transfer it is carried out by bringing the two devices closer together. On the other hand, it is problematic, since some users use terminals to steal small amounts of money through their credit and debit cards, programming the subtraction of small amounts of money, which do not require the introduction of a code.

What uses does NFC have?

As we have already explained, it is a technology that is commonly used for identification and payments. In this sense, the Android NFC, although it has been on the market for a long time, is still not present in all terminals, despite this, it is common to find NFC from Samsung and other brands.

Next, we are going to see what are the most common uses of this type of technology:

  • Data exchange: Google uses this technology, together with a combination of RFID cards, to mark the user’s location and send him real-time information about nearby events and places.
  • Identification: This is the most common use of cards with NFC chips. For example, they are the ones used in public transport, as well as NFC security cards to enter and exit buildings.
  • Device synchronization: This is a common use in some components such as headphones or speakers, since it is a faster and less tedious NFC connection than Bluetooth.
  • Payments: The NFC Bank chip allows payments to be made simply by bringing a mobile terminal or a credit card closer to another device, such as a POS terminal. NFC and payment is usually a winning combination.
  • Automation of actions: Home automation is another common use, in this sense, NFC tags can be placed at the door of your house, so that when you enter through it with your phone, the WiFi is activated or the airplane mode is activated.

How to activate the NFC?

In Android, as usual, the way to activate this technology depends on each manufacturer. Although the most common is that it is available in the notification bar. Many manufacturers place a shortcut in this area, so you just have to slide the bar down and tap on the NFC symbol to activate or deactivate it.

In other terminals, this option is found within the System Settings . If you don’t have any customization layers, the settings icon will be the one with the gear shape. Once inside, you should look for the “Wireless connections and networks” section, select the “More” option and in this section you should find the “NFC” option. Finally, you might find it in the “Connected Devices” section.

Whether NFC-enabled phones will become a standard is difficult to determine. However, as communication technologies continue to advance, it is not surprising that in the near future we will have a more secure NFC technology, which will ensure convenient and seamless use.

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