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More about NFC by Elektor

Without the general public being aware of it, RFID is everywhere! Are you familiar with it? The little tags attached to, or hidden in the products we buy (some even set off the alarms when we leave a shop), in our passports and ID cards?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and has been around for quite a number of years. Based on the same technology a more advanced version emerged: NFC. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and it?s exactly the technology implemented to enrich and illustrate this book with multimedia content.

And there is more to NFC. You can use it for data transfer from one phone to another, and the technology allows you to simply leave your wallet or credit card at home... your NFC enabled phone picks up the bill for you!

NFC was originally developed to make secure radio transactions possible using phones or gizmos. Payments and reservations require no more than just holding your phone close to another NFC-enabled device, smartphone or tag for the transaction to launch. It can also provide you with the automated setup of special connections like Wi-Fi or a headset, and for the exchange of business cards or contact information. It can pay your parking ticket or purchase your next ticket to a concert through a smart poster.

How does it work? Techy insights!
RFID and NFC employ the same technology: good old transformers? work. A transformer consists of two coils, a primary and a secondary, coupled by a core. When a varying voltage is applied to the primary coil, the current will create a varying magnetic field or flux in the core as well as in the secondary coil.

The changes in the magnetic flux induce a change in the secondary coil?s current, creating a voltage on the end wires of the coil. This way voltages can be transformed to higher or lower values.

RFID and NFC are both based on the same principle, using inherent coupling to exchange data. Many combined shop entrances/exits have a huge coil the shape of a gate that?s strong enough to trigger the small RFID tags in your shopping bag. The tags used in this example are passive, meaning they will be activated by, and respond to, the flux from the primary source: an NFC smartphone or another device.

Learn how TAG have inriched the book Catch the Sun and how you can ad your own content.

The most advanced type of coupling occurs with two active NFC devices ? this is where the real capabilities of NFC become apparent. In this mode larger amounts of data can be transferred, or e.g. automate the setup of a Bluetooth connection to a headset or the way a Wi-Fi connection gets set up can be automated. Communication is also possible between an NFC device and an unpowered NFC chip, called a ?tag? or a ?card?. In this book there are unpowered tags only. They wake up when the primary NFC device?s field is applied. When ?woken up?, they will respond by sharing the information in their memory with the primary device. Their memory may contain a URL or other information. In case of a URL the primary device will open the browser, open the URL and (dis)play the content. This is how the title song of this book will start.

The table below provides an overview of how NFC compares to a technology like Bluetooth:

FEATURES NFC Bluetooth 4.0
Security High Good
Distance ~ 10cm ~ 1m
Modes Active / Passive Active
Bandwidth 424 Kbit/s 1 Mbit/s
Frequency 13.56 MHz 2.4 ? 2.5 GHz
Connection Point to Point Personal Area Network
Setup time < 0.1s < 6s

The table shows why NFC is the preferred technology for all sorts of applications where a quick, secure, point-to-point, automatic and intuitive setup of transactions and/or transfer of data from one device to another is vital. The maximum distance at which NFC devices operate is low compared to Bluetooth, defining the different uses of the technologies. An example would be a financial transaction, where information preferably is not transmitted over a wide range. Keeping the distance short adds to the security of using the system.

NFC was introduced in smartphones via the Android OS since the Gingerbread version of this operating system. With e.g. the Beam application you just put two NFC phones back to back, tap ?Beam? and the screen content (photos, video, music) is automatically beamed over to the other phone.

It will take some time for consumers to get familiar with the new way of paying and connecting. However once NFC is implemented to more and more smartphones and tablets, a fast growing number of consumers worldwide will be able to experience the benefits of o establishing easy and direct connections with others for gaming or networking purposes o mobile NFC-payments in shops, buses and trains, for event tickets and at parking meters o gaining direct access to multimedia content in books, newspapers, concert posters or at museums, checking in for flights or when entering restricted buildings. Just to name a few activities that are all a single tap or swipe away with an NFC-enabled smartphone.

Retailers too will see obvious benefits from this technology. The added value of having one platform for information as well as payments is evident: clients will receive information on e.g. products, ingredients, discounts, stock availability and other relevant information (like best-before dates) via a single swipe or tap that will exchange all relevant data well ahead of checkout. Customer loyalty programs will get a new dimension with this technology as well. Consumers will be able to download specific offers, coupons or programs with only one touch.

The use of NFC technology has only just started. With the standards sorted out and the arrival of more NFC enabled smartphones and tablets the expectation is that global NFC usage will take off shortly. Mobile payments and transactions are the first applications for this technology, but with a good deal of creativity put in we?re sure to see more and more applications arriving.

NFC provided by:images/NXPIDENTIVEPublished by:ELEKTORLENTHE

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