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What is NFC (Near Field Communications)?

written by: Vasanth•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 12/30/2010

Near Field Communications is a wireless technology that passes data between NFC enabled devices, typically within a few centimeters of each other. It is present in some mobile phones, PDAs, cash registers, and turnstiles. It is used to process transactions.

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    Overview of Near Field Communications

    Near Field Communications (NFC) is a wireless technology that transmits data between two devices. The transmission can be active or passive. In active communication, each NFC device generates a radio frequency (RF) to transfer data. In contrast, passive transfer requires just one of the NFC devices to generate a RF to transfer data.

    The data transfer occurs over a short range, usually within a few centimeters. The transfer occurs in a contactless setting, which means that each device is separated when the data transfer occurs. Simply waving the device near the reader or tag will form a data connection.

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    Specifications

    NFC utilizes the frequency band 13.56 MHz. The data transfer rate is 424 kbps, but it can be set at 106 kbps or 212 kbps.

    There are three NFC communication modes that a device can use. Read/write is not a secure mode, but it allows the data on a device or tag to be transferred in a message format. NFC Card Emulation is a secure mode, and it allows the device to act as a smartcard. Peer to Peer is the third mode, and it allows device to device links.

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    Supported Devices

    A wide range of devices utilize NFC. Mobile phones, PDAs, and personal computers have gradually begun to incorporate NFC. Nokia is manufacturing more smartphones that are NFC enabled, and the Android platform recently incorporated the technology. Several wireless companies are working to create a mobile payment system based on NFC.

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    Applications

    NFC can be used to pay for products. An increasing number of cash registers are equipped with NFC. Customers can simply wave their NFC enabled phone to process a transaction. Vending machines with NFC can be very convenient for those that don't have change, but do have a smartphone. Subway turnstiles and public transportation in general have experimented with NFC to process fares.

    The healthcare field is also looking into NFC for processing medical records. One company even provides diagnostic testing through disposable test strips manufactured with NFC. The test results are transmitted to an NFC enabled smartphone and uploaded onto the company's server for processing.

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    Benefits

    Near Field Communications provides a seamless way to process transactions at various checkout locations with your mobile phone. It is a very secure way to pay for a product. The speed and convenience of NFC is expected to reduce the time spent in lines. In the healthcare field, NFC can streamline medical information and reduce the risk of errors.

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    Reference

    1. NFC Near Field Communication http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/wireless/nfc/near-field-communications-tutorial.php

    2. Short-range NFC Set For Tall Growth http://www.edn.com/article/512069-Short_range_NFC_set_for_tall_growth.php

    3. The NFC Revolution: Near Field Communication Enters the Fray http://ndn.org/blog/2010/11/nfc-revolution-near-field-communication-enters-fray

    4. New Diagnostic Platform Interfaces With Patients' Cell Phones to Provide Rapid Test Results http://www.medgadget.com/archives/2010/12/new_diagnostic_platform_interfaces_with_patients_cell_phones_to_provide_rapid_test_results.html