The concept of near field communication has been around for a few years now, but has only recently begun to make mainstream headlines. You may have heard of it this September, when Apple introduced Apple Pay, the largest functionality so far utilizing NFC.
What is Near Field Communication?
NFC is a type of short-range wireless connection that allows your device to exchange data with another device. Think of it as a type of Bluetooth, except it has much shorter range (the maximum is about 4 centimeters, a little over 1 1/2 inches) and uses much less energy. Another difference is the ease of use. While Bluetooth users have to find each other manually, and interference especially in crowded places is common, NFC sets itself up automatically once within range of another compatible device.
The Various Uses of Near Field Communication
Apple Pay suggests the most common utilization of NFC: a mobile payment option. The service allows users to save their credit card information in their phones, which they can then swipe past an NFC-enabled payment machine to send over encrypted data. No wallet needed - everything is operated smoothly through the phone. Android's Google Pay app works on a similar functionality. NFC's major current use is doubtlessly its mobile payment capability.
But other options for NFC do exist:
- Social networking. NFC can help users share contacts, pictures, videos or other files.
- Access tokens. Enter your gym, bank, dormitory or any other access-required location without needing ID cards.
- Task automation. NFC tags, available for purchase at major electronic stores, are the "other end" of the communication with the smartphone and can be programmed to virtually do anything. Tags can command the phone to do functions such as enabling airplane mode, turn off the sound (ideally when the tag is placed on your alarm clock), turn off your lights at home and much more. This aspect of NFC remains the least explored, offering an exciting outlook into the future.
The Future of Near Field Communication
So what's in store for the future of Near Field Communication? Not surprisingly, considering the possibilities, it's looking bright. The introduction of Apple Pay has already led to an increased competition with Google Wallet, which boosted its efforts after gaining a serious competitor in September. One study predicts the NFC market as a whole to become a $16.25 billion industry by 2022, driven by an almost 9 percent compound annual growth rate.
Apple Pay and Google Wallet may be the largest current users of this new technology, but the almost unlimited capabilities of NFC tags suggest a number of potential applications that have yet to be explored.