Near Field Communication (NFC) offers the possibility of a “smarter”, more convenient world. The technology has been around over 2 decades, however its introduction in Sri Lanka is more recent, with the issuing of smart travel cards, NFC credit cards, student cards and corporate fuel cards. These solutions are all promising steps towards a more wider adoption of NFC in the country. But first, a little history about this technology and how it works.
NFC Payment technology (P2) Image credit: ING Nederland
A Brief History of NFC
NFC communication came into the spotlight back in 2004, when communication industry giants Nokia, Sony, and Philips formed the NFC Forum, dedicated to promoting the benefits of developing this technology. (1)
Samsung pioneered the commercial use of the technology in smartphones by releasing the first Android NFC phone, the Samsung Nexus S, in 2010. (2)
By 2013, the popularity and potential of mobile payments prompted Visa, the multinational financial giant, to partner with Samsung in order to make the payments process both seamless and secure. (3)
2014 marked Apple’s entry into NFC powered mobile payments through their platform Apple Pay. Apple also committed themselves to the technology by embedding NFC in all their devices from iPhone 6 onward, including Apple Watch. (4)A year later, Google introduced Android Pay as a rival to Apple’s and Samsung’s NFC payment feature, with the service rolling out all across the USA. (5)
With all the communication giants integrating this technology into their products, NFC is surely here to stay.
The development of NFC applications (P3)
What Really is Near Field Communication (NFC)?
To put it simply, NFC is a high frequency radio communication standard. It is an evolution from the more well-known Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) standard. The NFC communication standard does not require any pairing codes or other similar verification methods to be activated. However, it is highly secure as it only works over very short distances (>5 cm)(6)and is therefore used as a new way to make payments. The NFC standard has 2 primary modes of communication by which it transfers information; the Passive and the Active communication modes.
Passive Communication Mode
The Passive communication mode only requires one of the communicating devices, known as the “initiator”, to generate a Radio Frequency (RF) field. The other device, the “target”, uses the generated RF field to transfer requested data to the initiator. It does this through a technique known as load modulation which can be used to both read and write data to the target device.(7) This is the most commonly utilised communication mode as it does not require the “target” device to have its own power source. It is therefore the standard mode of communication of NFC smart cards.
Active Communication Mode
In the Active mode, both devices generate Radio Frequency (RF) fields which allow them to have a more complex conversation, enabling them to read and write richer information onto each other. (8) Prior to the embedding of NFC in mobile phones, a mass adoption of this richer form of communication could not have been a reality. As it has been just over a decade since this happened, the surface of possibilities is just being scratched, albeit vigorously, by the tech giants of our age. This can be seen through this technology’s short yet colourful life so far.
NFC Chips are making their way into more consumer wearables (P4)
What Does the Future of NFC Look Like?
While mobile integrated NFC applications will revolutionize the everyday lives of people, the potential of its technology do not stop there. Businesses in a range of industries, from healthcare to logistics, are already benefiting from this technology worldwide. Even in Sri Lanka, many businesses are adopting NFC to reduce paper waste and streamline their services.
NFC was dubbed the next big thing by many experts in the communication industry. However, with the rapid pace of its growth across many different industries, it is the big thing right now! The next five years will surely be revolutionary for this technology, transforming businesses and the personal lives of people in everything they do, from transactions to communications. To keep up to date subscribe to Inside Access and follow us on Facebook and Linkedin.