What is NFC? An Expert Guide to Near Field Communication

What is NFC

Near Field Communication, or NFC, has continually revolutionized how we interact with different devices in our current digital world. A good example is tapping on an NFC tag to get information or pairing your smartphone with NFC to make wireless payments. It is easy to see how NFC is important and why you should consider learning more about it.

Someone might still ask, what is NFC?

NFC is a wireless communication technology that allows for short-range communication through contactless data transfer. It operates on the 13.56 MHz frequency, which allows for easy and fast data transfer between devices.

We take you through this comprehensive NFC guide so that you have a better understanding of what it is, its applications, and if you should invest in the technology.

Understanding NFC Technology

NFC has been around for a long time. The birth of NFC can be traced back to the 1940’s when radar technology was also developed. This laid the right foundation for Radio Frequency Identification or RFID, where NFC would come later.

NFC as a concept was first introduced in the 1980s by Bell Labs’ researchers. The researchers envisioned a way of having simpler but secure communication between different devices close to each other.

In the late 90es, the International Organization for Standardization or ISO and the International Electro technical Commission (IEC) introduced the ISO/IEC 1443 standard. This standard guided many companies to make contactless smart cards and improve NFC technology.

As of 2006, we started seeing the NFC technology getting into phones. The first phone to ever have this technology was the Nokia 6131. Such portability meant there could be so much more that can be used with the NFC technology.

Core Principles of NFC

NFC mainly operates on three main principles, including short-range communication, contactless data transfer, and frequency band used.

Starting with short-range communication, NFC operates based on proximity. It typically works for short distances between devices. On average, this will be 4 centimeters or 1.5 inches at most. This short distance is vital for minimizing unintentional data transfer, which enhances security.

NFC is largely liked because of contactless data transfer. As such, so long as the device is equipped with NFC, there is no need for physical connections such as cables for data transfer. Once a connection has been established between the two devices, all that is left is to transfer the data.

The operating frequency is also important to understand about NFC. The technology operates on radio frequency bands primarily using 13.56 MHz as its frequency. The best part about this frequency range is that it is highly compatible with many applications and other devices thanks to standardization.

How NFC Technology Differs From Other Wireless Technologies

We have already mentioned how NFC is a contactless technology. With this in mind, you should know how well it differs from other types of similar technology. Such includes Bluetooth, RFID, Wi-Fi, and QR codes.

NFC vs. Bluetooth

NFC has a shorter range compared to Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth can have a range of 100 meters, depending on the version. This is significantly more than what you get with NFC.

Also, data transfer speeds under NFC are slower than Bluetooth. That is why NFC is optimized for small data transfers, while Bluetooth can transfer large data within a short time.

NFC redeems itself in terms of power use. It does not consume as much power compared to Bluetooth. So, if you are applications that need power efficiency, NFC can be a good pick.


As much as RFID led to the birth of NFC, the two have some differences. The most notable one is the communication range. The range for RFID can go several meters depending on the operating frequency. As for NFC, you are mostly limited to a few centimeters.

NFC has the upper hand on the type of data it can transmit. That is why it can work well for contactless payments, access control, and sharing data between smartphones. As for RFID, it can still do those things, but some RFID types are limited to identifying and tracking objects.

NFC also offers the choice of having more security since its data communication is always encrypted. Authentication can also be added as a security layer. RFID systems vary from brand to brand, so expect the security also to vary a lot. The cheapest RFID systems might lack strong security features.

NFC vs. Wi-Fi

This is interesting because of how well people use Wi-Fi right now in their homes and offices. NFC has a short range as compared to Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi will have a larger range spanning over several rooms in a home or public space.

Wi-Fi will also offer high-speed data transfer capabilities, thus the reason it is preferred for large file downloads, internet browsing, and streaming.

NFC technology does not require a lot of infrastructure to work. So long as there are NFC-enabled devices in the space, they should easily pair and work. As for Wi-Fi, the technology needs infrastructure such as routers and access points to make communication successful.

NFC vs. QR Codes

QR codes are also good for the transfer of data. The best part is that you can have the QR code scanned by a smartphone from a distance. NFC would require that you are closer compared to a QR code.

NFC is more dynamic in terms of how you store data. It can open a website, initiate payments, or launch apps. As for QR codes, they store static data, including URLs and text, which are displayed once the code is scanned.


Applications of NFC Technology

Applications of NFC Technology

NFC has found its way into different applications in the world right now. This is because of how good it is at getting the job done. Below, we explore some of your options for NFC applications.

  • Mobile payments: NFC plays an important role in making contactless payments. This means you get secure and convenient transactions with a simple tap on your smartphone. Some of the examples that use this type of technology include Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.
  • Access control and security:NFC-based access cards make it hard for thieves to enter your home or office. This is because such cards come with better encryption, which is key in keeping unauthorized personnel out.
  • Transportation and ticketing:Many cities worldwide now use NFC technology for their transportation cards. This means commuters can easily use their cards or smartphones to access and use public transit.
  • Healthcare and medical fields: NFC can also enhance the security and accessibility of health records. The same can also be used for medication tracking so that the patients can receive reminders and their medications on time.
  • NFC in retail: You may encounter an NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminal in retail stores. Such an application means buyers can achieve quick and secure contactless payments with NFC cards or smartphones.


Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has remained a top choice for several applications across different digital landscapes. Because of the technology’s security, we have seen many companies going for it, knowing it would serve them well. This includes making payments, accessing information, and interacting with the world around us.

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