NFC stands for Near Field Communication. So, what does this mean? If you attend a trade show and meet someone, whom you would like to exchange business cards, you both can touch your NFC smart phones to the other’s show badge and the information is exchanged. You no longer have to carry a pocket full of business cards, or have to sort cards after the show.
NFC coming to a smart phone near you
While visiting the show lobby, you can place your phone next to a picture of a local attraction or restaurant, and information on that site will be sent to your phone. Want someone’s phone number? Just touch phones and personal profiles will be exchanged along with phone numbers. When you are ready to leave the restaurant, just touch your phone to the pay station and your bill will be paid by the credit card of your choice that you have saved in your phone.
NFC mobile-payment application is being tested in the United States, and a few other countries, with transportation ticketing as the main use similar to SpeedPass. You touch your phone to an NFC reader and your phone acts just like your existing credit card. The technology is similar to the RFID transmitters used in contactless credit cards, except that NFC chips allow for two-way communication instead of only one way, which makes your payments more secure.
NFC involves short range wireless technology, somewhere in the 10 cm or less distance range. It operates at 13.56 MHz on ISO/IEC 18000-3 air interface at rates of 106 – 424 kbit/s. NFC involves an initiator, such as a NFC smart phone, and a target. The initiator actively generates a RF field that powers the passive target that does not require batteries. The target currently has up to 4,096 bytes of memory.
The technology behind NFC uses inductive coupling (the coupling between two electric circuits through inductances linked by a common changing magnetic field)to transfer data. Induction occurs when a conductor of electricity passes through a magnetic field and generates an electric current in the wire. It's similar to passing an electric current through a coil of wire, which generates a magnetic field. Only, NFC does this in reverse. An NFC target has a coil of wire built into it. When an NFC equipped mobile phone gets to within a few centimeters of an NFC equipped device, an electric current jumps between the two coils of wire, signaling data-carrying, short-range radio waves to pass between the two devices.
NFC operates at slower speeds than Bluetooth, but consumes far less power and doesn’t require pairing. The connection between two NFC devices is automatically established in less than a tenth of a second. Since the devices have to be in very close proximity, stealing information will be a challenge for a criminal, yet not impossible. Applications will have to use higher-layer cryptographic protocols.
Security for NFC data will require the cooperation of device providers, who will need to safeguard NFC-enabled phones with strong cryptography and authentication protocols. Users will need to protect their personal devices and data with passwords, keypad locks, and anti-virus software. The RF signal for the wireless data transfer can be picked up with antennas, which will need to be in close proximity. Only time will tell how secure the system is.
Losing the NFC RFID card or the mobile phone will be the same as handing the finder all of the information stored on the phone. Mobile phones protected by a PIN code will act as a single authenticating issue. To defeat the lost property threat the owner of the device will need extended security that includes more than one independent authentication method.
There are apps being developed to make payments such as Google Wallet. Google Wallet is a mobile payment system that allows users to store credit cards, loyalty cards and gift cards on their mobile phone. Just tap your phone on any PayPass terminal when checking out. The Google Wallet can be locked to keep your information safe.
All NFC-enabled smart phones contain an embedded chipset or SIM card that's unique to every phone. There's also a Trusted Services Manager that issues an encrypted digital key that's unique to each transaction, which only the wireless carrier knows. The TSM sits between the wireless carriers and the card issuer, providing three layers of backend security. In addition, a user needs to enter his/her unique password to authorize the transaction.
One company with advancements in NFC technology is Kovio (www.kovio.com). Based on breakthroughs in nanotechnology and molecular synthesis, Kovio has developed high-performance silicon, dopant, metal, and insulator inks that are the electronic equivalents of color inks in graphics printing. By combining these proprietary functional inks with printing technologies, Kovio manufactures low-power, high-performance semiconductor devices and integrated circuits over thin, flexible, lightweight, and large area substrates. Kovio has leveraged this revolutionary platform to develop low-cost RF Barcodes and other products that are compatible with existing and emerging standards in NFC markets.
SK Telecom has announced that it developed the world's first USIM card equipped with an NFC chip, and it's being called "NFC on USIM". If you aren't familiar with USIM cards, they basically look and act like a traditional SIM card that your GSM mobile carrier supports in mobile phones. SK Telecom's new USIM card allows a non-NFC smart phone to become an NFC-enabled if it has the right software. The problem with most smart phones today is that they do not have NFC chips built into them, so they can't interact with NFC tags.
Stanford researchers are working on a photo display application that enables photos stored on an NFC phone to be displayed on a TV by simply touching the phone to the TV's remote control.
Although NFC is a relatively new technology in marketing, the promise of media-rich high quality content that can be accessed quickly and simply with a tap of a NFC mobile phone means that it will be very easy to relate marketing information at the point of contact. We will be seeing more newly launched campaigns designed to build awareness among on-the-go consumers about a product’s features and benefits.
Hall’s media and planning agency, Horizon Media is launching a NFC marketing campaign with Thinaire™ to build awareness for Halls Warm-Ups product using NFC smart posters. The posters will be stationed at 33 bus shelters in Chicago, where consumers get to tap the NFC tag on the posters.
The posters promote Halls’s new Warm-Ups product – which combines the brand’s mentholated cooling properties with a warming sensation – and encourages consumers to use their cell phones, via the NFC function, to connect with and like the brand’s Facebook page, then vote for one of the two Warm-Up flavors: Apple Cider or Mocha Mint.
Twentieth Century Fox in conjunction with a U.K. company, Proxama, promoted the latest X-men movie with cinema goers in the U.K. by using NFC posters that displayed an exclusive movie trailer and a link to the X-Men film's Facebook page with just a tap on the poster.
In the future, you might be able to use your NFC enabled phone to open your car; order tickets for a concert or movie after touching a poster; and transfer photos. You can pay for dinner, groceries, and transportation; and you will be able to exchange information between two people upon meeting for the first time. Instead of buying music with money, you will be able to touch your phone at a kiosk after selecting a song. The music will transfer to your mobile phone while the phone pays for your purchase.
You will be able to walk up to a poster of an event, tap your phone on the poster, select and pay for tickets, and use your phone as a ticket to enter the event. Coupons could be sent to your phone by a manufacturer or store, and you can use them at the checkout just by tapping your phone on a terminal. A NFC phone could replace your passport. While stopped at a rest area, you could access a visitors’ map and get GPS directions to an attraction or a national park.
At www.buynfctags.com , NFC kits are available. The GOTOTAGS Windows NFC App allows you to read and write NFC tags using your Windows PC. After you make a purchase, you will be emailed an unlock key to activate your license. This is a single user license good for one developer up to two devices and will be valid for all future releases of the GOTOTAGS’ Windows NFC App.
Target tags from Tagstand
If you are looking to just create the target tags, there are companies that supply them, such as Sparkfun, Tagage, Tagstand, and Touchtag.
Business card with NFC
Airwave, a company in California, is working on exciting new promotional advertising campaigns using NFC tags to direct a customer’s NFC capable phone to a company’s URL. Airwave is currently creating custom NFC bar coasters, I.D. Name Tags, and buttons. They can be reached at www.nfcairwave.com for more information on the process.
How about making a hotel reservation in advance, walking into the lobby, tapping your mobile phone to a registration device, have your credit card information transferred to the hotel to pay for the room, and use your phone as the room key? The possibilities are endless.
In reality there are a limited choice of NFC devices on the market at the moment, but expect to see a surge in these devices. Some of the mobile phone manufacturers that have NFC enabled phones are Acer, BlackBerry Curve, Casio, HTC, LG, Motorola Druid, Nokia, Samsung Galaxy, and more coming. iPhone is not NFC enabled yet, but Apple is close.
The U.S. remains slow to embrace NFC technology. The international market is larger at 70%. Right now in the U.S., the technology is advertising-centric, with users touching their smart phone to posters, signs or shelf tags to see offers or access more information on a product or service.
The NFC Forum has developed the “N-Mark” trademark as a universal symbol for NFC, so that consumers can easily identify where their NFC-enabled devices can be used. It is a stylized “N” that has two meanings. The N-Mark lets consumers know that NFC services are available on mobile device screens and on posters, signs, badges, labels, etc. It indicates where to touch to enable NFC services. The N-Mark is available free for use in software and on tags and media after completing the N-Mark license. The N-Mark on a device indicates that the device has passed NFC Forum certification testing. Once a product is certified, it can display the N-Mark as the touchpoint for NFC interactions on the device. (from NFC Forum)
I think this year is when there will be sufficient NFC phones in the market to make NFC viable with many new applications being developed in future years. Cell phones, as such are disappearing, while multi-purpose communication devices are emerging in their place.
Len started in the audio visual industry in 1975 and has contributed articles to several publications. He also writes opinion editorials for a local newspaper. He is now retired.
This article contains statements of personal opinion and comments made in good faith in the interest of the public. You should confirm all statements with the manufacturer to verify the correctness of the statements.
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