Near Field Communication (NFC) Breakdown

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Near field communication, or as it’s more commonly known, NFC, is all over the press headlines recently so I thought I would leverage this exposure and write my own opinion article on this commonly misunderstood topic. Over the last year I have done some intense investigations on this technology in hopes I could utilize it in the development of a mobile application, alas that idea fizzled out, but the resulting knowledge of NFC I gained should help me explain a little more about this to everyone. At first, I felt as though this technology would be a flash in the pan – so to speak – but the more I learned, the more I realized it has amazing potential and has actually been used in other countries for years! The future of NFC in the United States is just beginning and, I believe, the translations will slowly be seen and felt in many aspects of our daily lives.

First, let’s start with understanding exactly what NFC is, how it works, and how safe it really is. Near field communications aren’t new to you – although you may be completely unaware of what exactly I am referring to. Have you ever swiped a keycard to open a parking gate? Have you walked out of a store and set off the alarm? Had your pets micro-chipped? I’m sure most of you have experienced at least one of these scenarios, and if so, you’ve been exposed to the most basic form of NFC technology – radio frequency identification, RFID for short. Although very similar, NFC works a little differently from RFID as it can be a two-way street – receiving or sending information – whereas RFID is limited to one-way interactions. RFID technology is still used in many applications, but will most likely be phased out in favor of NFC. Most of you have been seeing NFC introduced into mobile phones, tablets, and other devices such as speakers and even TVs, but why?

Since NFC is a two-way street which allows two devices to talk to each other by simply ‘tapping’ or ‘touching’ them together it requires close proximity (10cm or less) in order for the devices to ‘speak’ to each other. For example, if I want my NFC enabled mobile phone to play a song on my NFC enabled mobile speaker I must ‘tap’ or ‘touch’ them together, allowing them to ‘speak’ to each other, thus resulting in the speaker playing the music from my mobile phone. This two-way technology has many applications which you can check out in the slideshow at CNET.com. The applications are endless, as the slideshow briefly examines, and that brings me to my next area of discussion which is mobile payments.

For a long time our country has been anti-NFC when it comes to mobile payments, but what most people fail to realize is these types of payment systems have been in place in Japan for over 10 years! After reading the book Platform Alliance: thinking for your success, by the President of NetStrategy, Carl Atsushi Hirano, I was amazed at how far Japan had come with NFC technology. The Japanese use NFC technology in their subway systems, convenient stores, restaurants and many other payment modes. To me that was a red flag that we were missing out on something huge in America. The simplicity of NFC makes it something that we must pursue. Of course, security should be a huge priority, but as we start to develop better software and security measures to ensure safety I think we can soon enjoy the freedom the Japanese have with mobile payments. Check out this link for more information on NFC and NFC security. Of course, NFC isn’t perfect, at least not yet, but that isn’t stopping me from day dreaming of some future possibilities.

As a personal trainer and quasi-entrepreneur I am always trying to think up the coolest ideas for mobile fitness apps. Recently I had an idea of using NFC tag technology within the gym so I set out to do some investigating. I purchased an NFC enabled phone, some NFC tags (tags are programmable, stand-alone NFC enabled sensors that can store, send and receive data) and tested the idea of storing workouts on certain tags – it worked! I could actually store a video of someone doing a bench press on, let’s call it, Tag A, attach Tag A to the bench press, scan my phone to the said tag and instantly be watching the video of a proper bench press. Pretty cool right? Of course, as ideas go it never materialized but that stands as a simple idea of what someone can do with NFC technology.

Already, Sony and Samsung are leading the charge with NFC tags and NFC enabled devices. One of the coolest things I’ve seen NFC being developed for is the next generation of TV’s and gaming systems. Sony’s Playstation 4 is being rumored to utilize NFC to connect and interact with Sony branded tablets, and Sony televisions will be able to display your mobile phones’ screen in 60inch Hi-Def with just the swipe of NFC – dubbed One-Touch technology. Most companies are just now at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing NFC, but the future looks bright!

After doing my research and testing NFC for myself I’ve really come to embrace the possibilities of what this technology can do. Whether it’s simple tasks such as turning your phone from office mode to car mode, or more functional features like tapping quickly to get on the Subway or paying for your daily coffee you can really start to appreciate how simple NFC make things. Daily life is constantly full of clutter and even though we surround ourselves with technology that is supposed to simplify things, it can sometimes result in the opposite, and that’s where I think NFC differs. I believe the NFC technology today, and in the future, really will make our daily lives simpler and less stressful. I’m excited to see what is coming next!

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