Near Field Communication

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) & Near Field Communication (NFC) Technologies

2020 – RFID and NFC are known as modern technologies.

Both are global wireless (contactless) communication technologies.

RFID technology enables the communication between an unpowered tag and a powered reader. It therefore consist of a reader with an antenna, and a transponder (tag). There are two different RFID tags possible:

  • Active: have their own power source or
  • Passive: have no power source and have to be supplied with energy via an electromagnetic field produced by the reader.

Passive transponders or tags are available in three different RFID frequency ranges:

  • Low frequency (LF) – Range a few centimeters
  • High frequency (HF) – Range a few centimeters
  • Ultra high frequency (UHF) – Range over a meter.

RFID is best suited for asset tracking and location in logistic functions.

RFID has been around since the 1980s, and NFC was invented in 2002 by NXP, Sony, and Nokia. NFC is now an established communication technology, already being widely used. For example, Android, Apple, and Samsung Pay are notable uses of NFC technology that facilitate easy and secure transfer of payment between consumers and POS systems with just one tap.

NFC is also based on the RFID protocols.

The main difference to RFID is that a NFC device can act not only as a reader, but also as a tag (card emulation mode). In peer-to-peer mode, it is also possible to transfer information between two NFC devices.

NFC systems operate on the same frequency as HF RFID (13.56 MHz) systems. Because of the short read range limitations, NFC devices are often used for secure communications, especially for access controls or in the consumer sector for contactless payment.

In tech parlance, NFC refers to a small-range technology that allows devices to “speak with one another.” NFC can be embedded in products, packaging and labels, digital signage, smartcards and more. Devices with NFC read capabilities, such as smartphones, can interact with NFC-enabled products to unlock digital experiences.

NFC-embedded objects do not need a power source. An NFC chip is made up of a small storage memory, radio chip and an antenna. To work, NFC chips leverage the power of an NFC reading device, such as a smartphone. With a max range of 10cm/4in, the chip picks up the device’s electromagnetic waves and wirelessly transfers data embedded on the chip to the phone or tablet.

The data displayed is known as the “digital experience.” Embedded product websites are commonly referred to as “experiences” because they enhance the experience of owning the product. Any physical item that has an NFC chip embedded in it becomes a “smart product.” Such experiences permit individuals access to the customized digital resources intended to provide deeper engagement between the object and the user.

Depending on the manufacturer, NFC Chips cost an average of $0.25 per chip, and RFID can cost anywhere between $0.05-$0.10 cents, making both very affordable solutions.

NFC can be embedded in products, packaging and labels, digital signage, smartcards and more.

NFC chips are also easy to implement given their small size. They can be attached or embedded to variety of products. NFC can also reshape the way we handle packaging, organize and store all printed documents, and deliver brand messaging.

Embedding an NFC chip into your product transforms the time into a private, 1:1 content channel between you and your customer. Today, you mostly reach your audiences through social media, email and display ads. Social media poses a problem in that the content published lives on a 3rd party platform, which means you no longer own your audience and the data behind it. Moreover, it is on these platforms where your competitors also vie for your audience’s attention. Email has become less effective due to the sheer number of emails people receive today and end up deleting as a result. Finally, display ads provide a generic and disruptive experience, leading many to completely ignore them and in some cases, install ad-blockers. Having a private communication channels with each of your customers ensures that you remain relevant to your customers, build an organic relationship, and earn their loyalty. Moreover, through data collected, you can understand where, when and how customers are using your products.

NFC embedment is not meant for one-time use. NFC chips can be updated as frequently as desired. With regular updates, consumers are encouraged to interact with their product multiple times. Moreover, experiences that adapt based on location, are ones that can be tapped by users on a consistent basis. For example, a sneaker that suggests nearby running trails will always be useful to runners who are looking for new paths to conquer. Each experience will offer new insights on consumers and how to better plan products for future production.

NFC poses itself as a very versatile and valuable technology. Understanding its true potential gives forward thinking brands an edge over competitors.

To learn more about NFC or Smart Products check out The Complete Guide to NFC.