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NFC: what does it mean?

NFC 2NFC technology is the acronym of Near Field Communication. By using this connectivity standard, two mobile devices are able to communicate and send / receive data. Distance range between those devices should not exceed 2 to 10 centimeters. Based on growing users’ mobility, NFC is (almost) fully dedicated to smartphones and tablets.

Developed from RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and using electromagnetic energy, the NFC standard enables connection and identification of two handsets within a near field. Of course, as this technology is based on radiofrequency, data transmission is possible only between NFC ready devices. To use NFC (payment, data exchange etc.) you must have a NFC ready handset, including an embedded NFC chipset and supported by a NFC compliant OS (Operating System). Apple seems not interested in this new connectivity standard and iOS doesn’t support it (sorry for iOS users). But most of recent smartphones / tablets using an Android or Windows Phone OS are NFC certified. Is your device NFC compliant? Let’s visit the NFC phones list (from NFC World).

Here is a short video introducing NFC:

Three ways to exchange data via NFC:

  • Data exchange between a handset and a NFC tag
  • Data exchange between a handset and a NFC reader (e.g. point of sales)
  • Data exchange in a domestic mode

NFC 3Unknown in Europe, NFC is still running live in the Asia Pacific region (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia). European mindset is about to change and some pilots / projects are going to be set up by the end 2014 across European Union. According to its Asian success we can be sure this technology will modify radicaly customer / brand relationship.

This is really important to note that a NFC data exchange between two NFC handsets requires a maximal distance of 1 to 4 centimers between them. You can avoid fraud and unwanted usage 🙂 this need of proximity justifies a real will from the user to share or exchange data with another one.

What about NFC standardization?

NFC 4Do you know the NFC Forum? This is standardization organization gathering all companies involved in NFC development and deployment: it could be mobile network operators, handsets manufacturers, tags or components suppliers, banks, payment companies, software development firms or SIM manufacturers. This list is available here.

NFC Forum’s objective: to promote NFC, but how? To achieve this objective, NFC specifications are defined by the forum, this organization has to certify members companies (if products are fully compliant with NFC forum specs). As there are very different copanies (MNOs, manufacturers and developers) the Forum has to ensure interoperability between all NFC handsets and all NFC services.

Let’s have an example: a NFC SIM card from Oberthur within a Nokia Lumia 920 shoud be replaced by a NFC SIM from competition (Gemalto, Giesecke & Devrient or Morpho…). The end user should not feel any difference between these two SIM cards and should be able to continue  to use his Nokia in NFC mode. For further information about NFC Forum, certifications and specifications please visit following link.

To sum up, this technology is currently in pilot (Europe) and commercial phases (Asia Pacific). By simplifying transactions and data transmission from a connected device to another one, NFC aims to give us an easy life.

Don’t hesitate to comment 🙂

© Guillaume – January 2014

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