History of NFC

For which purpose was NFC developed initially?

NFC was developed in order to enable people to exchange data faster and easier than before. Once completely developed NFC was supposed to be used particularly in payment systems.

The basic idea: Payment information should be transmitted securely, but without a complex registration process. In order to realize this idea, NFC was developed as an international transmission standard which allows contactless data exchange via short distances (1-4 cm).

So much for theory – How does this look like in practice?

Customers can pay with NFC in a convenient way by moving their smartphone very close towards a NFC-enabled POS terminal. A registration process isn’t needed because moving the smartphone towards the POS terminal is interpreted as giving permission to transmit payment information. As this transmission only functions via very short distances, it’s not possible to pay unintentionally while standing next to a point of sale.

The technical origin of NFC

NFC evolved from radio-frequency identification (short: RFID). You might have come across RFID in your everyday life because it’s widely used in electronic retail security systems. A RFID transponder is attached to most products in stores. If an alarm sound goes off when leaving a store with a product, this means that a RFID transponder is still attached to this product. The alarm signal is triggered because RFID transponders in stores communicate with a RFID reader at the exit via an electromagnetic field.

What’s the difference between NFC and RFID?

NFC transmitters also communicate via an electromagnetic field, but their reach is significantly smaller (1-4 cm). As NFC was developed to be used in payment systems, this is a very important difference. RFID would have been a bad choice for contactless payment systems because the reach of this transmission standard is too high. Customers probably would have paid unintentionally by standing next to a point of sale. A new transmission standard with smaller reach was needed to realize secure contactless payment systems – Near Field Communication. In the section RFID vs NFC, you can find out more about the differences between these two technologies.

How is NFC used nowadays?

Today it’s actually possible to pay via NFC as more and more stores get equipped with NFC-enabled POS terminals and NFC credit cards are not uncommon anymore. Additionally, several mobile apps such as Android Pay enable customers to pay with their smartphones.

Though NFC was originally developed for payment systems several other NFC applications have emerged. For example, many companies use NFC for marketing purposes or to facilitate work processes such as recording of working times and taking inventories. However, not only companies can benefit from NFC because the technology can also facilitate our everyday lives. A NFC-enabled smartphone and some NFC tags is everything you need to automate various processes on your smartphone like changing smartphone properties, sending messages or logging in social media accounts.  

Further information

NFC Smartphone

NFC-Tags for your Smartphone