Consider these scenarios.
- You’re at the grocery store ‘check-out’ line, bawling baby at hand, your 2 yr old tugging at your skirt, and you have to fish through your purse for the exact amount to pay the lady behind the counter.
- Your friend wants the pictures that you both took at the party last night, but your Bluetooth absolutely refuses to cooperate.
- You’re in a crowded subway station trying to buy a ticket. “If only you could find the exact change in your ‘overstuffed’ wallet, without paying heed to the impatient mumbling from the people behind you”.
The technology of ‘Near Field Communication’ (NFC) was invented for just such conundrums. It enables one to transfer data, simply by tapping/waving one’s NFC supported device, against a similar mechanism, using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) systems. All it requires is that both devices should at least be within a range of about 4 cm.
This is helpful for various instances :
- When one wants to transfer data from one phone to another, like games, photos, apps, contact details, et al.
- For payingthe ‘parking-meter’.
- To transfer data from a computer to a mobile, or vice versa. Recently, Intel showed off its ‘Ultrabook laptop’s new feature. Simply by tapping it with a Smartphone, one could pay for all their ‘online purchases’, without going through the hassle of filling-in a gazillion forms.
- Can use it on vending machines, to pay for your purchases
- To send pictures and videos from your camera to your laptop
- To purchase tickets (transport, movies, games)
- You can even use them as keys to open car doors, or the door to your apartment.
- Can act as a ‘virtual wallet’
- You can even configure a friends Wi-Fi or Bluetooth settings simply by tapping your phone against theirs.
You can also do the same with your router, if ever you forget your Wi-Fi password.
‘Near Field Communication’ operates through 2 modes :
- Active-Active Mode
- Active-Passive Mode
‘Active-Active mode’ refers to those instances when 2 devices are required to emanate their own ‘radio frequencies’(RF). Say for example, when you want to exchange data between your phone and another.
The ‘Active-Passive’ mode, however, doesn’t require both to be of the ‘give-and-take’ policy. Here only one needs to be able do so. The other just needs to have the power to detect, and reciprocate to the RF device. The active one here is called the ‘reader’, and the other the ‘tag’.
These ‘tags’ are of various levels of complexities :
- The ‘read-only’ version, that can only write and read semantics.
- Or, the more complex ones that can run math functions.
As far-fetched and ‘futuristic’ as the notion of ‘Near Field Communication’ may seem, it’s already employed in Japan, and Europe. In fact, Philips and Sony are 2 of the biggest leaders who utilize this technology to its max. And, by 2004, Nokia had also joined the bandwagon.
When it comes to Smartphones, Samsung, Nokia, Sony, and HTC, have already introduced the masses to a few ‘NFC’ supported devices. However, Apple enthusiasts are yet to be bestowed with such a feature. Anticipating its initiation in the company’s new ‘iPhone 5’, consumers were left disappointed at its obvious absence from the ‘much-talked-about’ gadget. “All in good time, perhaps.”
NFC is more commonly linked to its ‘wallet’ option, probably because that’s the one feature that’s more easily available to the general public. Not everyone likes to carry around clunky wallets that contain more bills than anything else, or sift around for change whilst holding up a long line of irate customers. They could easily substitute it all, with just their mobile. The ‘Near Field Communication’ technology saves them all that trouble, and embarrassment.
Google partnered with MasterCard PayPass, to create ‘Google Wallet’. It allows one to store all their credit and debit card details on the site. And since it has been optimized for the Smartphone, one can simply tap their phone on a ‘tag’, and pay off their bills.
Understandably, one has concerns, in terms of security, when it comes to ‘Near Field Communication’. “It’s personal details that are involved here, after all”. That may be the reason for it not being as commonly accepted as one would’ve thought. But, NFC has left this up to us. We can customize our ‘security options’. So how ‘inaccessible’ we want it to be, depends completely upon us.
Also, since one needs to be within close proximity (4cm), to transfer data, there are lesser chances of anyone stealing it. And, you also have the option to deactivate your NFC, when not in use (“Sort of like your Bluetooth”).
A lot of companies are contemplating welcoming such an innovation ‘with open, albeit shaky arms’. The security concerns, makes one apprehensive. However, with a few minor tweaks, this technology could revolutionize the very manner in which our planet operates. We could bid adieu to ‘paper & plastic’ (cash & cards), and ‘Go Green’.
The advantages are plenty, and one simply can’t wait to be a part of the NFC era.