What is NFC and why is it used?

Today, new data transfer and contactless payment technologies are available that allow you to transfer your files, pay for your purchases and make your payments by bringing your mobile phone closer to another compatible device equipped with specific terminals. This principle of contactless transmission is called NFC, Near Field Communication. Learn what NFC technology is and what it’s used for in this guide.

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What is NFC technology?

NFC technology, or Near Field Communication, is a high-frequency wireless data transmission technology that allows information to be transferred from one device to another automatically and quickly without the need for pairing. Near Field Communication, CCP in French (Communication en Champs Proche), allows two terminals less than 10 cm apart to communicate with each other very quickly, sending data in less than a minute by radio frequency on a frequency of 13.56 transmit MHz. It therefore does not require internet to function.

Unlike Bluetooth, NFC does not require manual pairing or device identification to transfer data. The connection starts automatically when another NFC-enabled device enters the previously defined frequency range. These devices can be two cell phones, a smartphone, and another device such as payment terminals or a remote speaker.

How does NFC work?

In principle, NFC is similar to Bluetooth, but devices that sync with NFC technology do not need to be identified. The connection is automatic and almost instantaneous. Depending on the data rate, NFC uses coding with a different modulation factor for data transmission. At the same time, NFC devices are able to receive and send data at the same time.

NFC technology supports three operating modes with very different applications:

Reader mode turns your phone into a contactless reader when placed near an NFC tag. This allows you to automatically retrieve information or launch an application on your phone. This operating mode can be used, for example, to learn more about works of art in museums by holding your smartphone close to the day. It also allows you to get more information about the composition of medicines or the origin of food, the instructions for use of a toy or even the arrival time of the next bus at an equipped stop.

In card emulation mode, you can use an NFC-equipped device as a contactless smart card. When paired with a smartphone, NFC connects to the SIM card to store encrypted data. In this way, your mobile device becomes a contactless payment card for your shopping, transport or show tickets. It can even help you manage your coupons and loyalty points.

The peer-to-peer mode enables fast data exchange between two devices equipped with NFC technology. With this mode, you can exchange photos, videos or other files from a mobile phone to another device by bringing them closer to each other. Your smartphone can also be turned into a home automation remote, allowing you to remotely control the various devices in your home or even unlock the doors of your car.

What are the uses of NFC technology?

NFC technology is not only used for contactless payment and tag reading. It is also useful for data sharing, access control and identification, controlling your car, etc.

NFC for contactless payment

Anyone who costs less than 50 euros only has to bring their mobile phone or bank card equipped with an NFC chip close to the contactless terminal. No PIN needs to be entered for this. The payment will be accepted after a few seconds and a payment ticket will be issued.

When paying with your smartphone for items over 50 euros, you must first enter a confidential code specific to the NFC payment service on your mobile phone and then swipe your smartphone in front of the contactless terminal to confirm the payment.

The retailer’s smartphone can also become a contactless payment terminal if it is equipped with an NFC chip and a checkout application. This new contactless payment system is being developed by both banks and startups and companies operating in the field of new technologies.

NFC to share data

One of the advantages of NFC technology is the simplified data transfer between two devices. If the NFC function is activated in both end devices, no pairing is required as with Bluetooth. One of the devices will automatically detect the other. Now just open the content you want to share and then bring the two devices close to each other. Finally, click “Tap to share”. Files are transferred quickly with a transfer rate of 424 Kbps.

NFC for access control and identification

NFC technology is used for access control or identity verification. In addition to the usual access control, this technology allows you to pay for services and accommodation in hotels, create ID cards… For example, customers of an equipped hotel do not need a physical key. They can enter their rooms or visit other areas just using their smartphones. Your credentials are generated in real-time and all transactions are processed securely.

How do I activate NFC technology on a mobile phone?

Today most Androids are equipped with NFC and some Apple devices too, proof that NFC technology has conquered the market. To activate it on your Android nothing could be easier, just follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings on your Android phone
  2. Go to the Wireless & Networks or Connections section.
  3. Click the NFC toggle switch to turn it on

NFC does not need to be activated on iPhones XS and later as they have an always-on NFC chip. If your iPhone is older than the iPhone XS, follow these steps to enable NFC:

  1. Go to your iPhone’s “Settings”.
  2. Go to the Control Center section.
  3. Go to “Other Commands”
  4. Click on the “NFC” icon
  5. Approach your iPhone to the NFC tag

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