Over the past few years we’ve posted a few stories that featured the acronym, “NFC,” and and needless to day, I’ve gotten a few emails from people asking what exactly “NFC” stands for and what does it do. Well, I’m going to break it down in simple terms and make this a quick read, but also an informative one.
“NFC” stand for “Near Field Communication,” it’s a short-ranged wireless technology that allows certain devices to “talk” to each other, but is also used for syncing, transferring data and doing transactions. In any “transaction” or use of NFC there is always an initiator and a target. As I said, NFC is “short-ranged” and by short I mean no more than about 4 centimeters or just shy of 2 inches. Another way to think of NFC, is like Bluetooth, just with a much shorter distance allowed before the connection is broken.
How does it work?
There is a chip that is involved, that is usually hidden in the phone or as in the Nexus S 4G’s case, in the battery door. This chip is very thin and has metal contacts that when the battery door is closed, touches two receiving contacts, thus creating a circuit. This way the chip can then communicate with the software in the device.
Now that you know what NFC means, you may ask how do I use it? Since we deal with mobile phones here at TechHog, I’m going to use my Nexus S 4G as an example—the fact it has an NFC chip doesn’t hurt either. Typically, when someone is first informed of what NFC can do, especially when it concerns a “digital wallet,” they become fearful and immediately say, “no, no no, I don’t want my credit cards on my phone, what if i lose it? Someone can charge stuff with my phone.” Slow down and take a deep breath, it’s not like that at all. It’s not like you just type your credit card number into your phone and it’s free for anyone to use. First of all, you need an app that works with the NFC enabled device and a credit card that is compatible. I’m going to use Google’s new “Google Wallet” for this example, as it is really the only one that has been started and has a detailed method of how it works. But essentially you open the “Google Wallet” app and you input your credit card, relax, once it is put in, the numbers, except for the last 4 digits are “X’ed” out (example: XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-1234). Once everything is set up you can then go innto any participating store that has NFC terminals, which you can find at McDonalds, 7-11s, Subways, Grocery Stores and many other places, tap on the app and now you’ll have to put in a 4-digit code (which you’ve already assigned when you set up the app, thus securing your information) and you’ll then be able to pick the card you want to use. Once your card is selected, simply place your phone in front of the terminal and boom, you’ve paid for your item(s). Close the app and walk away.
Basically the biggest fear people have is that someone can either use their phone to charge stuff just by turning it on or someone can walk up to them with a “target device” and charge your credit card without you even knowing. But trust us, this won’t happen, as you have to use your pin to first open the app and then select a payment method before anything can even be charged, so there’s really no reason to worry.
NFC chips can also let people share items, be it, music, video clips, apps, contacts, a multitude of things. Two phones can simply be paired together by holding them close (or even touching them) together and with software, you’ll be able to give friends, relatives and co-workings many different items quickly and securely.
While NFC technology hasn’t really caught on, Google is jumping the gun, in an attempt to get a head start on Apple, who still hasn’t confirmed whether or not its next iPhone will feature the technology. When it does, expect this technology to explode and you’ll start seeing stickers on doors of a lot of retailers and windows that say; “We take NFC or Pay with your Phone here.”
So now that you know what NFC is and what it does, you shouldn’t be afraid of having your credit card stolen. NFC will be a big deal in a few years, but at least now you’ll be able to know what people are talking about and even add in a few talking points yourself.