Anyone that has gone into a retail store recently has likely seen a Mastercard “PayPass” pad at the checkout station. Using a credit card with a special built in chip, the customer makes contact with the pad with the card rather than swiping it. The technology behind the tap-to-pay devices is call near field communication.
Near field communication (NFC) is a technology allows enabled devices to communicate with other devices by establishing radio communication, by either touching them or bringing them into close proximity of one another. This is done through the use of NFC chips, or tags, which can be custom-encoded or may use the specifications provided by the NFC Forum, an industry association charged with promoting the technology and setting key standards. The tags can securely store personal data such as debit and credit card information, loyalty program data, PINs and networking contacts, among other information. NFC typically tags contain data and are typically read-only but may be rewriteable.
Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are similar to NFC since all three allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices. However, the significant difference with NFC is that it utilizes electromagnetic radio fields while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi utilize radio waves. NFC builds upon Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems by allowing two-way communication and works in the same 13.56 MHz radio frequency spectrum. Unlike RFID, both the NFC device and the tag can initiate the communication.
One application of NFC technology already on the market is the Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that allows its users to store debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards among other things, as well as redeeming sales promotions on their mobile phone. BMW is working to allow car owners to use their key NFC key FOBs to store downloaded event tickets or check out of a hotel. Hospitals can use NFC to monitor patients at their homes. Students cab use their NFC enabled phones to get into their dorm rooms. A fun application of the technology is the Karotz Bunny.
There are many interesting possibilities for this technology:
– Touch a mobile device over display at a local museum or at an exhibit to access more information and multimedia content
– Touch a device at a display or a poster to create an interactive experience
– Could replace the pairing step of establishing Bluetooth connections or the configuration of Wi-Fi networks
As with other such technologies there are concerns aabout privacy and security. Adopters will want to know that all of their vital information is encrypted and that that viruses can’t be passed by NFC.