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1 What is NFC?

  • Near Field Communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish instant radio communication (connection speed 0.1s) with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity (0 to 4 cm)
  • The following logo designates NFC Logo NFC certified devices
  • Applications include contactless transactions, data access and exchange, and simplified setup of more complex communications such as Wi-Fi
  • NFC operates at 13.56 MHz and at rates ranging from 106 kbit/s to 848 kbit/s. NFC always involves an initiator and a target; the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target.
  • NFC technology enables three communication modes:
    • NFC Pear-to-Pear Mode
      Peer-to-Peer (P2P) mode
      2 NFC powered devices (e.g. 2 mobile phones) create a connection to share information
    • NFC Reader/Writer Mode
      Reader/Writer mode
      1 NFC powered device reads either an unpowered NFC chip/card called “NFC tag” or another powered NFC device that is in Card Emulation mode
    • NFC Card emulation Mode
      Card Emulation mode
      1 NFC powered device acts as an NFC tag

2 Does NFC follow any standards?

  • All NFC readers (mobile devices) and tags (chips, cards, posters,…) follow NFC standards, under ISO/IEC (open platform technology) and ECMA
  • The main NFC standards used are NFC Interface Protocol-1 = ISO/IEC 18092 / ECMA – 340
  • However, all NFC devices are also compatible with:
    • ISO/IEC 14443 (RFID norm)
    • FeliCa (Sony norm)
    • NDEF (logical data exchange)
  • Standards specify:
    • Modulation schemes
    • Coding
    • Transfer speeds
    • Frame format of the RF interface
    • Initialization schemes
    • Data-collision control
    • Transport control (activation+ exchange)
  • ISO standards arecomplemented by the NFC Forum: a nonprofit industry organization whose mission is to advance the use of NFC technology by developing technical specifications, ensuring interoperability among devices and services, and educating the market about NFC technology.

3 What is an NFC tag?

  • An NFC tag is a passive device (that does not need power) that stores data that can be read by an NFC-enabled device like an NFC mobile phone.
  • NFC tags can take several forms: stickers, labels, discs, key fobs, wristbands, etc. They can also take the form of plastic cards or badges.

    NFC Tags

  • The price of an NFC tag depends on the ordered quantity. It can be as low as $0.4 per tag for large quantities. Prices are also expected to decrease once the technology becomes more widespread.
  • An NFC card and an NFC tag are technically the same. However, contactless cards used in ticketing and payment today include additional technology to store secure data.

4 What is an NFC reader?

  • An NFC reader is an NFC-enabled device operating in Reader/Writer or Peer-to-Peer mode. Unlikean NFCtag that is passive,an NFCreaderisan active devicethat needs apower.
  • Typically, NFC readers consisted of USB devices that could connect to a desktop or laptop computer, and had the ability to communicate with both active and passive NFC devices (ie card, stickers, tags and NFC phones). In the near future, a large number of smartphones will be NFC enabled and could be used as NFC readers
  • POS (point of sale) checkout terminals can be used as NFC readers if they support the ISO 18092 standard.Thisis veryuseful for quickly deployingpayment solutionsbased onNFC.

    NFC Tags

5 What is NDEF?

  • NFC Forum Data Exchange Format (NDEF) is a lightweight binary message format designed to encapsulate one or more application-defined payloads into a single message construct. This format is used to exchange information, e.g. between 2 NFC devices or 1 NFC device and 1 NFC tag
  • Typically, NDEF messages that can be read by an NFC device are stored on NFC tags

6 What is a Smart Poster?

  • According to NFC Forum definition, NFC Smart Posters are objects in or on which readable NFC tags storing an NDEF message have been placed.
  • An NFC Smart Poster can come in many forms – it can be a poster, billboard, magazine page, even a three-dimensional object.
  • Smart Posters are attractive to retailers, transport agencies, health care providers, and any entity that has information to share.
  • There are a number of business benefits delivered by using NFC Smart Posters, such as cost advantages over alternative means of communication, relative ease of implementation, usage feedback, and the provision of an automated interactive communications mechanism to target audiences.
  • NFC Smart Posters can be used to: market new services to end users, collect information from end users when used in surveys, distribute virtual coupons, provide information about services or products. Smart Posters allow advertisers to induce immediate actions from the targeted end user (e.g. order the product by tapping on the advertising)

7 What is IoT?

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the networked interconnection of objects of diverse nature such as RFID and NFC tags, sensors, actuators, mobile phones, etc. It includes physical objects and beings as well as virtual data and environments.
  • IoT has a huge impact on several aspects of everyday life: Home automation (Domotics), assisted living, e-health, e-mobility, smart payments, e-ticketing are only a few examples of application scenarios
  • The building blocks of IoT are called “smart objects”: autonomous physical/digital objects augmented with sensing, processing, acting and network capabilities.
  • The simplest form of “smart objects” are object that contain or have an RFID or NFC tag attached to them. NFC Smart Posters are a typical example of smart objects.

8 How is NFC different from Bluetooth and WiFi?

  • NFC is specifically designed for setting up instant communication between devices, with very low energy consumption (15mA in read mode). The set-up time is 60 times faster than with Bluetooth.
  • Unlike Bluetooth or WiFi, NFC devices can “read” passive tags, which do not need to be powered. This allows many innovative IoT uses in everyday life.
  • Furthermore, when the exchange requires a faster connection, for example for transferring heavy files between the devices, the NFC based system has the ability to trigger a more capable wireless connection, like WiFi, but with simplified pairing.
  • Bluetooth and WiFi allow objects to communicate together, but unlike NFC, they need to be set up: Network ID and password for WiFi, pairing process and password for Bluetooth
  • NFC requires no setup at all, making it extremely user friendly and accessible.

NFC Comparison

9 Is NFC secure?

  • NFC technology has some intrinsic security features, both at hardware and software level.
  • NFC is a proximity technology, i.e. communication can takeplace onlywhen two devices arevery close (typicallya few millimeters). Therefore it isvery difficult for an NFC communication to be interceptedat a distance.
  • In addition, the sensitive datawhich must beused in a transaction, forexample for apayment, arestored inso-calledsecureelements, i.e. a secure storage area inside NFC mobile phone. This secure area can be (a) embedded in a mobile phone, (b) SIM based or (c) a removable Secure Element (like an SD Card).
  • Finally, in IOTAG’s NFC implementation, the code stored on a tag and transferred to a phone makes no sense outside IOTAG’s framework, so even if someone intercepts the code, it is meaningless. No personal data is stored on the tag and no personal data is exchanged through NFC.

10 When is NFC coming?

  • NFC is here and is being tested in multiple contexts across the globe. 2012 is theyear of thecommercial launchofNFC
  • 2011 saw the launch of a few NFC enabled mobile devices like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • 2012 mobile phone manufacturers’ roadmaps include a significant number of NFC enabled phones.