Near Field Communication - NFC vs RFID

Near Field Communication is a system which allows for two portable devices to exchange or otherwise transmit information when in proximity to one another. So that’s the boring definition. Basically, if this hasn’t already happened to you, one day someone will show you how they can hold their phone up to their friend’s phone and get that one hilarious picture from that party and you will go “No way” or something like that and you will have to have it. That’s my definition from experience. 

NFC is really an evolution of a technology called Radio Frequency Identification, which is basically an antenna transmitting information to a nearby transceiver which then sends that information to a data processing system. Again, fancy. Think EZPass. That’s Radio Frequency Identification. RFID has therefore been around for a long time in the form of EZPass and RFID badges which allow access to secure areas. What is new is the introduction of this technology into mobile communications devices.

What makes Near Field Communication so intriguing to private citizens and business-making ventures alike is that it is both safe and effective, two of the most important attributes to any technological advance. People find it so safe because the range at which NFC systems can interact is a maximum of 20 centimeters and both systems must be active in order to receive that information, thereby giving both parties reasonable assurance that unwanted data transfer is not taking place. Also, it’s cool. Never underestimate the Cool Factor. For a long time to come there will be a certain novelty to sharing information in this way, whether that information is a phone number or you are buying something and using NFC to transfer your credit card information to a retailer, there will remain that novelty, and once that novelty wears off what will remain will be a way of life. 

In a weird way, we seem to be playing catch-up with the future when it comes to NFC. It is an example of technology moving faster than infrastructure. Basically, the technology has been around for years, and the ideas of how it could be used have also been around. The trouble is, much like with the invention of the car, there needed to be a massive change regarding how the everyday is done in order for this investment in the future to be deemed worthwhile. Today we are still making that investment, with companies spending millions if not billions of dollars to make way for NFC systems to pervade our everyday lives. Think about it. NFC can be used to pay for items at a store, but this is a moot point if there is no NFC system in the store, and even more of a moot point if the bank has no way of reading this information. NFC can also be used to pay for mass transportation, like the bus or a taxi, but who cares if there is no way for the bus or taxi to read the information in your phone. The investment is certainly there, though, so be ready for NFC to make its way to your phone (if it’s not there already).

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