Near Field Communication turns your smartphone into a smarter phone. Here's what you need to know.
Near Field Communication, usually shortened to NFC, is a technology that enables the transfer of small amounts of data data between two compatible NFC devices within a relatively short range of each other. NFC is the technology behind tap-and-go style credit cards, but it’s also present in an ever-expanding range of mobile phone handsets.
How does NFC work?
NFC is a standardised, open-platform technology approved by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA).
While a contactless payment card uses NFC in a one-way direction to enable purchases, NFC on a smartphone can be bi-directional. That means it can both send and receive data depending on the needs of specific applications.
The most prominent use to date for NFC technology has been in payment processing. In the smartphone world that’s still true, with mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay all becoming increasingly common in Australia.
For phones though, payments aren't the only use for NFC. Other applications include security authorisation where your phone can wirelessly unlock doors and computer systems for you, information exchange with another smartphone (such as swapping business card info) and automatically switching modes based on your location (such as switching to speaker phone when you get into your car).
For effective use, NFC has a range of 20cm or less. As with any wireless technology there is the possibility of interference, which is why so many NFC solutions advocate effectively "tapping" devices together to minimise data transfer issues.
One other advantage of NFC is that it's a relatively low-power solution, draining much less battery than other wireless technologies like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.