Near Field Communication (NFC)

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a wireless communication technology that enables data exchange over short distances between NFC-enabled devices and NFC tags or other NFC devices. Operating at the 13.56 MHz frequency, NFC is an extension of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, specifically High Frequency (HF) RFID. The ISO and NFC Forum define several standards for NFC, including ISO 14443, ISO 15693, Tag Types and NDEF. Many companies are involved in the NFC ecosystem; NXP, ST and Fudan are primary suppliers of NFC chips. UHF RFID is a similar technology to NFC, but with longer range and several other benefits and tradeoffs.

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Benefits of NFC

A primary benefit of NFC vs other RFID-based technologies is that most modern smartphones are NFC-enabled, allowing product developers to leverage an existing hardware install base with no additional cost. NFC’s adoption has been driven by contactless payments, primaily Apple Pay, but is used for asset tracking, marketing, product authentication, gaming and other use cases. The cost for system designers to integrate NFC controllers into their hardware and the low cost of NFC tags have further driven the adoption of NFC.

NFC Range

A typical reading range of NFC is up to 5 cm (~2 in), although the range can be increased when using high-powered NFC readers with large antennas and Type 5 NFC tags. The limited range of NFC contrasts with the extended range of UHF RFID, which can read UHF RFID tags from over 20 meters. The short range is an intentional design to enhance security, as it requires close physical proximity for communication, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized interception or data eavesdropping. This proximity requirement makes NFC ideal for secure applications like contactless payment transactions and personal data exchange. Moreover, the limited range facilitates a quick connection establishment, as no complex pairing or setup is needed, making NFC highly user-friendly for everyday applications like contactless payments, interaction with NFC tags and fast data transfers between devices.