Understanding Near Field Communications (NFC)

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Near Field Communication technology has given entrepreneurs new ways of supercharging their businesses by personalising products and services to keep up the evolving technology and the growing demands of tech-savvy customers.

This relatively new standard in wireless communication technology has come a long way since its introduction to the world. From converting NFC-enabled smartphone to mobile wallet to rewarding customers through NFC-enabled loyalty cards, NFC’s use has now expanded to more interesting forms. But before we go into detail regarding these exciting developments in NFC, let us first have a refresher on how this technology works.

What is NFC anyway?

Near Field Communication or NFC is a wireless technology that allows two devices to communicate or transfer data securely and at very short range. It’s actually a modification of the Radiofrequency Identification (RFID) technology.

The two-way wireless communication between NFC-enabled devices like smartphones is made possible by embedded NFC chips or an unpowered chip called “tag”. The thin microchip or the tag can hold certain amount of bytes of information which are typically read-only, but may be rewriteable and can hold multiple commands.

Unlike Bluetooth, no pairing code is needed to connect. It’s also contactless so all you need to do is tap or beam data from one NFC-enabled device to another and the information is automatically shared. The process is really quick and low-powered, hence it doesn’t consume your device’s battery.

In Australia, NFC technology has been available for various commercial use since 2008. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) lists financial institutions, credit and debit card companies and merchants as early adopters of this technology.

But let’s not forget as well that these “early adopters” also include the tech-savvy consumers who eagerly dove into the technology because it allowed them easy, peer-to-peer sharing of information like exchanging photos, contact information, website URLs, videos, apps, and others.

Mainstreaming NFC

Without us noticing, NFC has been transforming our lives, one commercial application at a time. Although most of these recent innovations (disappointingly) are done elsewhere in the world, it’s still encouraging to know that we’re moving forward with this technology.

One good example of NFC innovation in the news today is the NFC-equipped tablet computers in shopping carts launched in Brazil by the global mayo brand Hellman’s. These tablets can identify the items that are placed in the cart and provide real-time recipe suggestions to customers. Each recipe, of course, includes mayo in the ingredients. Needless to say it’s a brilliant way of presenting your product right at the moment the customer is making a decision.

While in the U.S. some hotels are trying out the iHome audio solutions of Hotel Technologies, a manufacturing company responsible for various innovative products to the hospitality trade around, to personalise in-room entertainment of their guests. Rooms are being equipped with an NFC-enabled FM stereo alar0m clock radio and a stereo speaker system with speakerphone to allow guests to stream music from their Bluetooth-enabled devices.

In Australia, electronic mobile payments are the most common application of NFC nowadays. This user-initiated service is done by installing payment applications such as Google Wallet, Mastercard Mobile Wallet and Visa Pay Wave to a NFC-enabled smartphone to pay for products and services.

Other notable uses of NFC here include loyalty cards stored in smartphones, opening of electronic locks/doors, accessing advertising and marketing information in billboards and posters.

What now?

We truly believe that the myriad applications of NFC technology is limitless, and just like other technologies before it, its possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.

NFC will eventually take off and become the way of the world in the future. For now, we’ll just have to encourage more manufacturers to integrate NFC in their devices to accelerate the growth of this great technology. If more NFC-enabled mobile devices are made available in the market, more businesses will come up with useful ways of making our life easier.

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