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What is NFC and how does it Work

We previously explained in one of our posts what is RFID technology. Within this type of radio frequency technology, one of the most well-known is NFC, another type of communication using the same medium that is becoming increasingly common in our daily lives.

One of the most widespread applications of NFC is mobile payment systems, but NFC offers other utilities that help with the digitization of objects or communication with machines. In this post, we explain in greater detail what NFC technology is and what the differences are with RFID technology.

What is NFC technology?

NFC technology, or Near Field Communication, is a short-range wireless communication technology that allows for data exchange between devices. Based on RFID technology, NFC can establish communication between two devices simply by bringing them within a distance of 4 cm or less. This technology helps make the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality by allowing for easy and secure connections between objects.

NFC is a contactless communication technology that is popular and widely used in smartphones and other electronic devices. Although it started as a simple idea to improve communication between devices, it has grown to become an essential technology that drives our daily lives and our economy.

How does NFC technology work?

NFC works thanks to a physical principle known as electromagnetic induction. When two NFC-equipped devices (such as your phone and a payment terminal) come close to each other, one of them (the initiator) generates a low-frequency electromagnetic field. The other device (the target) receives this field and can extract the information encoded in it.

NFC uses the radio frequency system for its operation, specifically the 13.56 MHz radio frequency spectrum (like HF RFID). It has a power of less than 15 mA, which allows for immediate data transmission in a range of up to approximately 20 cm between devices. The capacity of NFC tags varies depending on the type of chip they incorporate, but they generally have a storage capacity of between 96 and 512 bytes.

Despite its apparent complexity, NFC is designed to be simple and easy to use. You don’t need to be a technology expert to take advantage of its benefits. You just need a device equipped with NFC and to know that, by simply bringing it close to another NFC device or tag, you can make payments, obtain information, and much more.

NFC technology can operate in 2 different ways or modes:
  • Active mode: The 2 devices (emitter and receiver) communicate by producing a signal. One of the devices waits for data, and its electromagnetic field turns off.
  • Passive mode: The emitter device generates an electromagnetic field, and the receiver modulates it. The device that receives is powered by the intensity of the emitter’s electromagnetic field.

Passive mode, therefore, only allows for one-way communication, in which there is only one active device and the other takes advantage of that field to exchange information. Active mode allows for two-way communication.

NFC technology only needs 200 microseconds to connect and can transmit information at rates of 106, 212, 424, or 848 Kbit/s, so it is often used for identity verification and devices.


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