Near Field Communication (NFC)

nfcWhat is NFC?
An increasingly important form of communication is Near Field Communication (NFC). Just like Bluetooth, it lets you transfer pictures, music and other files between devices. Many recently manufactured devices now come with this technology built into them and it's very simple to use. It's also fast! If you have a recent phone or tablet, go into the Settings area, and then into the area for networks / wireless and see if you can find NFC. If you can't find it, have a look for your make and model online, to see if it is hidden in the settings somewhere. 

NFC and Bluetooth compared
Bluetooth has a range of about 10 metres. The range of NFC is about 4 cm. Devices have to be almost touching for data transfer to take place. Bluetooth transfers data at about 24 million bits every second. NFC transfers data at about 300 million bits every second so it is about 10 times quicker. NFC uses very little power in most circumstances. You have to set Bluetooth by going through a 'pairing' process and this can take a few seconds. NFC connections are made almost instantaneously and because the devices are practically touching, don't suffer from interference.

How do you use it?
If you want to send a photo to a friend and both of your phones had NFC, then the first thing to do is switch the NFC on in both phones via the settings. Then you select a photo. Then you hold the two phones together for a second! That's it. The connection is made and the photo will be transferred to your friend's phone. It's this simplicity and speed that makes it perfect for a range of applications, apart from just transferring files between friends.

What can it be used for?
Your phone can now be used to do all kinds of very clever things. You could download a bus or train pass to your phone or buy a plane ticket and have that downloaded. If you needed to get on a bus or train, you can just hold up your phone to the NFC reader and the correct amount of money will be taken from your balance automatically. If you needed to get on a plane, you can just hold your phone out to a reader so that you can pass security gates. If you needed to pay for of goods in a shop, you don't need to carry money around - just hold your phone next to the reader and the correct amount will be read. If you are visiting somewhere and you have a security pass, you can use your phone to pass through security. When you visit somewhere and are at a particular place, or perhaps walking around a museum, you can hold your phone up to a transmitter that can send your phone some information about where you are or what you are looking at. All of these applications aren't really suitable for Bluetooth because of the amount of time it takes to set up connections, but for NFC technology, they're ideal.

NFC tags
One particular fun thing you can do with NFC is to buy some little NFC tags and program them using a free or paid-for App from your App store. It is very easy to do. You can program them to give out information or to make certain actions happen like opening and playing a particular MP3 file. Then, when someone touches the tag with their NFC-enabled phone, the file or instructions are transmitted to the phone! 

Q1. What does NFC stand for?
Q2. Compare the working range of Bluetooth to NFC.
Q3. Compare the data transfer speed of Bluetooth to NFC.
Q4. Describe how you could use NFC to send a photo to a friend's phone.
Q5. What is an NFC tag?
Q6. How do you program an NFC tag? 

Extension tasks
a) If your phone or other device has NFC, find someone who also has NFC on their phone or tablet PC. Send a file. Receive a file.
b) Do some research on the Internet. Describe some actual uses around the world that uses NFC technology, which are already in place today.
c) Program some NFC tags.