Explaining Near Field Communication (NFC) is a task I find myself doing a lot these days. Especially when telling a friend how awesome this or that smartphone is, and I inadvertently mention NFC while doing my favorite impression of a desperate salesman.
The answers most people need are to questions like; what is NFC? How does it work? Is it important to have it on a smartphone? Why doesn’t my smartphone have NFC? The easiest question to answer in that lot is the last. If your smartphone doesn’t have the NFC feature, that is because the manufacturers of that smartphone did not include it as one of the features of that phone. Simple and obvious right?
So let’s get down to the not so simple questions
What is NFC? Near field communication is in its simplest terms refers to communication between two devices that are close to each other. The ‘field’ is kind of misleading because the only field involved is the virtual field between and around the devices or objects. It involves establishing connection through radio frequency. Data is exchanged between the devices either by touching them together or just bringing them close together.
Does this sound like Bluetooth or wireless to you? That is because they are similar, but one definitive difference between NFC and the other two is that in NFC technology, you can also exchange data between a smartphone (or a mobile device) with the near field communication technology feature and a passive object like a credit card. In general, it is also faster than Bluetooth in data transfer.
As of now, there are there are three kinds of NFC mode
1. The device-device mode which involves exchange of data between two paired smartphones or mobile devices
2. A read/write mode where only one of the device is active and reads data written on the passive device
3. Where an NFC enabled smartphone can be used as a contactless credit card to carry out the functions of a credit card. This is a form of card simulation for want of a better term to use.
For now the NFC technology is very widely used in the shipping business and other businesses that involve large warehouses. The contents of goods in hundreds of containers can be determined easily by just scanning each container with the NFC-enabled device. This way goods can be inventoried easily without having to open every single container. This saves a lot of time for everybody as you can imagine.
In theory, NFC sounds very important. But at this point in time, it is not a game-changer having the feature in smartphones. This is because there is still a reluctance to fully deploy the technology by business owners and firms. The auto industry is gradually using this technology for their new cars though, like the new E class by Mercedes Benz which employs NFC to unlock and park the car.
In a future that is not too far away, using the NFC technology would become a part of our daily existence.It would then be used mostly in e-commerce for easy payments of goods and services. For instance, with NFC, instead of inserting your credit card into a POS machine, you can just wave your smartphone over the machine to effect payments.
In that future, the scary thought is that your smartphone would become much more valuable. Think about it. With the NFC technology, you can use your smartphone for almost anything from banking, to many other financial transactions and to driving your car. I guess we will have to find a way to make sure we never lose our phones easily.