NFC — What It Is and What You Need to Know

Published: May 21, 2019Updated: May 16, 2022
3 min to read
NFC — What It Is and What You Need to Know

Near-Field Communication or NFC is a way that data is transferred between devices. For it to work the devices have to be 4 inches or less apart.

What Is NFC?

NFC-equipped devices can connect with each other automatically. As the devices connect each user will receive a prompt, after which they can transfer documents and files between the devices or to make payments.

Are NFC Payment Software and Payments Secure?

NFC software makes sure that any payments can only be completed when they have been authorized by the user. Once the devices have connected you are able to authorize the payments as you wish. Apple devices use thumbprint technology whereas Android uses a variety of methods. Some of the more advanced software will employ facial recognition. The main advantage to NFC payments is that it eliminates the need to carry lots of cards; you simply store the details and then select the ones you wish to use.

The technology also allows you to accept payment so, for example, if you are expecting payment on collection of goods or for a completed contract you can receive the payment in a few seconds. There is no need for any kind of complicated billing system — once the devices touch back-to-back the money is sent and the transaction completed.

Sharing Data Between NFC Devices

NFC software has developed to the point where you can share files of practically any size; documents, photos, trade information, etc. In fact, the file transfer size is larger than is currently available on email or social media. Since 2014 you have been able to share files stored on different operating system and it can be used for business and personal files. By touching the devices the transfer is made, eliminating the risk that the document is sent to the wrong person. You may need to install Android Beam or NRC Reader to access this facility.

NFC Compatibility

To use NFC both devices must support it. For Android apps you can find an app called “NFC” in the Google Play Store which will tell you if your device can support the process. There is no similar app for Apple but models later than iPhone 6 should support it if they have the latest iOS. Newer Apple devices support NFC as standards, you may need a download for older products.

NFC Tags & Products

A NFC tag is simply a very small chip and a tiny antenna held together with a clip. The information is transmitted via the antenna into the chip which acts as a memory. The NFC tag is usually on the side of a device or may be in a circuit board.

An NFC product refers to things such as the table-mounted terminals, wristbands and so on that are not ‘tagged’ onto a device.

Storing and transferring data on the tag is done by encoding. The amount of data held in the tag is just a marker that is associated with other files or data on the device or online. This means only a tiny amount of data is transmitted to the tag even though you can send many gigabytes over the system.

The easiest way to understand this is to look at an hourglass: The sand inside is the data, the empty bulb is where you want the data to go and the tag is the narrow channel in the middle. Although it doesn’t hold a lot of sand, the sand flows through it into the other bulb. This is essentially how an NFC tag works.

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