What is NFC?


Slowly but surely, NFC is becoming a common feature in the tech world, especially as it relates to smartphone services like Android Pay and Apple Pay. If you run a small business, you might also find a few useful applications for NFC technology that can improve team communication and enhance customer service. In this handy guide, we've outlined what is NFC, how NFC devices operate, the difference between NFC and Bluetooth audio, and more.

What is NFC?

Short for "Near Field Communication", NFC technology allows devices to transmit data directly to each other, without relying on a cellular network. Similar in principle to Bluetooth, NFC sends data via radio waves using a specific communications standard, which improves on older RFID technology. It can be used with smartphones and tablets, but it's also possible to incorporate NFC into other commercial devices. For example, machines in a factory can use NFC to send logistical data back to a mainframe computer, where it can be analyzed and optimized.

Many unified communications (UC) devices have incorporated NFC technology as well, such as the Yamaha YVC-300 conference phone. This makes it possible to instantly pair other NFC-compatible devices to the speakerphone, like another smartphone or tablet.

What Does NFC Mean for My Company?

In today's hyper-competitive economy, data is everything, but you need a reliable system that can deliver good data in an intelligible way. By applying small NFC tags to your devices, they can communicate wirelessly between the tags whenever they cross paths. This is extremely useful for logistics businesses with vast warehouses and countless machines working independently. As NFC data is shared between tags, it can also be sent to a main computer so that managers can gain logistical insights and refine their operations.

Staff members can also use NFC tags to show their current location, clock in/out, and provide real-time updates in a large environment. Meanwhile, managers can get in touch with the right department by waving their phone over an NFC tag, so that customers get helped immediately. NFC tags can even be affixed to product displays, so that customers can learn more about a product or have coupons sent to their mobile device.

How NFC Devices Operate

There are two main types of NFC devices:

  • Passive: These include tiny transmitters like NFC tags, which send data to other NFC-compatible devices. They don't need a separate power source to function, but they can't analyze or process data, either.
  • Active: These NFC devices can transmit and receive data from any other NFC technology (including passive devices). Smartphones use active NFC technology, as do public transportation readers that require you to tap a card.
The NFC standard transmits data at a frequency of 13.56 MHz (megahertz). Depending on your transfer needs, it's possible to send data at 424 kilobits per second, which is fast enough for most media (i.e. photos, music). Depending on the situation, NFC devices can enter a peer-to-peer mode to exchange data back and forth, or a read/write mode for one-way transmission. Lastly, some NFC devices operate in "card emulation" mode, which is designed for public transportation, credit cards, and other payment methods.

NFC vs. Bluetooth Audio

As mentioned previously, NFC and Bluetooth both rely on wireless frequencies for transmitting data. However, NFC technology can also induce electric currents in a device, so a passive NFC tag doesn't need a power source to function. Instead, it draws energy from an active NFC device that is creating an electromagnetic field nearby.

On the other hand, Bluetooth requires a lot more power to function, but it also has a longer transmission range. NFC can only send data around 10 centimeters away, but Bluetooth can transmit more than 10 meters. Finally, NFC beats Bluetooth with its connectivity speed, as it only takes 1/10 of a second to send data between devices. Right now, it's the perfect technology for mobile payments.