"This phone has NFC compatibility," is a statement that you hear often these days. Lot of smartphones have adapted to the Near Field Communication protocol and applications for NFC have been growing by the day. Lets take a quick look at what NFC is and its application in the smartphone industry.
NFC is a set of communication protocols that enables communication between two electronic devices when they are in close proximity. Usually one of the devices is portable, such as a smartphone.
NFC as a standard was first submitted by Sony and Philips in 2002. Later, in 2004, an NFC forum was established by three companies, Sony, Philips and Nokia. Two years later, the first specification for NFC tags was created. In 2010, the first smartphone with NFC, Samsung Nexus S, was released, made in partnership with Google.
NFC's communication range is very short. According to the specifications, two devices with NFC capabilities can only communicate when they are within 10 centimetres of each other. NFC works on advanced principals of RFID. One NFC device acts as a wireless link and is activated when another NFC device is in the range. After activation, the data exchange takes place.
There are many applications now linked to NFC in smartphones, and first and foremost among them is payments. After Apple included NFC in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, Apple Pay has taken off in a big way.
Apple has partnered up with many food chains and retail outlets, enabling payments via smartphones and smartwatches. Google too has Android Pay, while Samsung has Samsung Pay in selected countries.
Access through NFC is also a great application. Many offices are implementing access to their premises through NFC-enabled phones. Public bus services in Los Angles have given their conductors NFC-enabled phones for ticket checking. And in Mumbai, metro access and pay will soon be available through NFC.
NFC tags are used widely to perform certain actions. One well-known use is in the Google cardboard VR headset, where you can put your phone in the VR mode through the NFC tag in the VR headset.
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At other places, NFC tags can be used to trigger actions such as relaying information in museums, and paying parking metres. One can also put NFC tags in homes, to connect with WiFi or to put the phone in silent mode while sleeping.
The spread of NFC technology is imminent. More and more unique uses are coming to the fore in the form of multiple applications. For instance, Android uses NFC to set up a new phone using the data in the old phone. Companies are also working hard on the security part of NFC. Apple, Google, and Samsung have ensured that, even from a small distance of 10 cm, the chips are not hackable.