There has been a lot of talk on the hot topic of Near Field Communication (NFC), in smartphones, and for good reason – it seems to be right out of the sci-fi movies we all know and love! For those of you not yet in the know, NFC is a standards-based connectivity technology used by smartphones, and other handheld devices, including several Google Android-based and BlackBerry OS devices (but not the Apple iPhone 5, oddly enough), among some others. Essentially, NFC allows one device to exchange data from another device, or NFC tag*, at close proximity but without touching. Even though this technology seems new, it has been around for a long time. However, it is only becoming popular in North America right now.
*Side note: NFC devices all have Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that can communicate with each other over a distance of a few centimeters.
According to an article on Mashable.com (http://mashable.com/2011/08/11/near-field-communication-guide/) , NFC works in three ways:
- Reader/writer mode: A reader or writer can collect and write information on a smart tag in another device.
- Peer-to-peer mode: Two NFC devices can exchange data.
- Card emulation mode: An NFC device can work like a contactless payment or transportation card.
But here’s the big question: what is it actually good for – in layman’s terms? Plenty, apparently! People with NFC devices can use their smartphone for public transportation instead of smart card swiping, transfer files to other NFC devices without having to be set up in advance for compatibility (both devices just need to have RFID tags), scan bar codes for more information on an object, product or advertisement, and make easy payments with a simple tap or wave.
Both Visa and MasterCard are set up for NFC payments with MasterCard’s PayPass and Visa’s payWave. Card holders just have to tap their credit cards on a terminal to make an instant payment. A smartphone with NFC technology would be able to do the same with the help of an e-wallet storing credit card information.
This technology can even be used in the health care industry. Patients would wear bracelets with RFID tags embedded in them, and doctors and nurses could scan the bracelet to view a record of the patient’s medical history. How’s that for futuristic technology!
NFC can be implemented by just about any industry – for example, a pub can stock up on some smart objects which patrons can “tap” with their NFC-enabled device to get information about that 19-year single malt or that pub’s very own micro-brew. Imagine using your phone to buy a ticket and purchase concessions as well as get special information from posters of upcoming movies, without having to awkwardly stand and take a photo of a QR code in dim light and wait for a website to load.
It’s hard to imagine how much more convenient payments could become, unless scientists find a way for people to make payments just by gazing into a terminal for a moment to transmit their payment information telepathically. Then again, nothing seems to be out of the realm of possibility anymore.
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