What is NFC?

First published 28.4.2015 and updated 21.6.2016

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a short range wireless technology, designed to provide simple communication between enabled devices.

NFC operates at 13.56MHz over a typical range of a few centimetres.

NFC offers three main operating modes, these are:
• Reader/Writer
• Card Emulation
• Peer to Peer

NFC dramatically simplifies the way consumer devices interact with one another.
Many of the world’s leading device makers, semiconductor producers, mobile network operators and applications companies support and encourage the use of NFC.

In Reader/Writer mode an NFC device can read data from, and write data to contactless smart cards (sometimes called ‘tags’); this mode of operation may be used to read smart posters, information points, and tags containing links to websites or other online resources. Tags can also be used to store information needed to pair two devices by WiFi or Bluetooth, in which case an NFC device can read this information and immediately pair with another device.

In Card Emulation mode an NFC device is able to behave like a contactless smart card such as a payment card, travel ticket, or access control card. An NFC device may have the ability to emulate more than one card, so an NFC device may emulate both a payment card and a travel card.

Peer to Peer mode provides a balanced communication link between two devices where both devices are able to initiate communications; the communications link allows data flow in both directions. This mode is typically used to allow two NFC devices to exchange data and use widespread protocols such as TCP/IP and OBEX.