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What is NFC and how does it work?

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

NFC is the mainstream wireless technology which is gaining steam globally. While using the online payment application like Google pay we all have heard it, but what NFC is exactly?

NFC stands for “Near field communication” and as the name itself signifies, it enables short-range interaction between the compatible devices. It operates within the range of 4cm and creates a wireless connection between your device and another. Basically, it’s a way for our phone to interact within close proximity without the help of an internet connection and it doesn’t cost anything to use. Public transport card readers like the metro card we use and the touch payment systems are good examples of NFC technology.

How does it work?

In simple words, the technology involved behind the NFC to work is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other wireless signals, NFC works on the principle of sending information over radio waves. As it functions through electromagnetic induction which makes it different from Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and NFC. This means there can be a passive device like a poster or sticker, which requires no power supply of its own to transmit data to an active device like our smartphone when coming into contact with it.

There are three modes of NFC:

1. Read/write

2. Card Emulation

3. Peer-to-peer

The NFC chip acts as one part of the wireless link. Once it’s activated by another chip, small amounts of data can be transferred between the two devices within the range of a few centimeters from each other. Like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in NFC, no pairing code is needed to link up and because it uses chips that run on very low amounts of power, it’s much more power-efficient than other wireless communication technology. There are many NFC-enabled devices are in the market like smartphones and tablets, which we have seen as a display tablet for the vending machines in airports, schools, and cafeteria, and digital canteens.

However, NFC has some major drawbacks. Like, the range of transmission is shorter than Bluetooth. It has a range of 10cm; another drawback is NFC is quite slower than Bluetooth which is 424kbit/s, compared to Bluetooth which is 2.1Mbit/s.

But it does have one major advantage that is fast connectivity, NFC provides the quickest way to set up connections between electronic devices and provides the fastest solution for file transfer between handsets in close proximity. It is great for when you’re out of credit, out of data, have no Wi-Fi or carrier signal, or don’t have a cable to do a PC transfer.

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