Captura-de-pantalla-2015-07-23-a-las-10.29.17-copia-1-e1437641330559NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a short range and high-frequency wireless communications technology that allows data exchange between devices. In theory, this range should not exceed 10 or 15 cm.

Although it has been around for a while, having being approved as an ISO/IEC standard in 2003, this technology was rarely used or widely known until quite recently. We can now enjoy using NFC on the new BQ Aquaris M5 and Aquaris M5.5.

It has an operating frequency at 13.56 MHz (with this band, you don´t need a licence to use it) and is derived from RFID tags, which you will surely have heard about, as they are used in transport cards or even in business security systems.

A bit of history

NFC technology took its first steps in the year 2002 when Philips and Sony tried to obtain a protocol compatible with existing contactless technologies at that time, MIFARE from Philips and FeliCa from Sony. NFC was approved with the ISO 18092 standard in December of 2003 later on in March of 2004, Philips, Sony and Nokia create NFC Forum achieving at the time that companies like Google, Visa, AT&T, PayPal, etc. to be part of, participate and support this technology. Today, there are more than 170 members.

However, several years went by without defining its practical use, despite the consortia training where the mobile phone manufacturers tried to start promoting this technology.

How it works

To be able to use this technology, you would need, at least, a device that supports NFC and a tag containing the information. You can also exchange information between devices that support this technology. One device must always initiate and monitor the communication.

There are two operating modes with NFC:

  • Passive: in this mode only one device generates the electromagnetic field, the other uses the modulation to transfer data. In this case, the device that initiates communication is the one that generates the field. An example of this is communication with tags, where the reader is the responsible for initiating the conversation.

  • Active: in this mode both devices generate electromagnetic fields and exchange data. For example, when you send a photo from one smartphone to another using this technology.

What it does

This technology is an open platform which has been designed for phones and mobile devices from the outset. The transfer rate can reach 424 kbits/s, which means it is more intended for transmitting large quantities of data, instant communication, meaning identification and validating equipment/people.

Its strong point is the speed of communication, which is almost instantaneous without any need to pair the devices first. On the downside, NFC has a very reduced ranged, operating, as mentioned earlier, at no more than 10-15cm, however, transparent use for the users and the fact that equipment with NFC technology can send and receive information at the same time also work in its favour.

Initially, NFC technology can be used in any situation where wireless data exchange is required. However, the uses with the largest scope for the future are as follows:

  • Transferring photos, videos and music.

Although there are many alternatives for transferring multimedia files from one device to another, this technology is very interesting and quick way of doing it.

NFC technology allows you to share files when bringing the devices close to each other

NFC technology allows you to share files when bringing the devices close to each other

  • Automated profiles

For this function, you only need to create a task with an application prepared to do so and specify that the activator is an NFC Tag. Once the task has been created, scan the NFC label you want to execute the designated task.

One type of NFC tag

One type of NFC tag

  • Identification

To access certain places where identification is needed, you could simply place your mobile phone or card with an NFC chip next to an NFC reader. Bus passes are a clear example.

  • Receive/exchange of data or advertising.

Use this technology to read the tag on an advert and the device will respond by opening a web browser.

Information apears or redirects you to a web page when neara tag

Information apears or redirects you to a web page when neara tag

  • Paying with your phone

The last possibility is without a doubt the most talked about. The mobile payments systems that use NFC technology have long been in development and testing, and, in fact, some processes have been established for some time.

Thanks to the HCE (Host Card Emulation) protocol, a technology based on virtualising the user’s credit or debit card/s, on the servers of the credit institutions or banks. That way, when you pay a vendor, your device sends the data that identifies the user via Wi-Fi or 3G/4G to the banks servers, where they confirm the authenticity and allow the transfer to the store.

This protocol has two advantages. The first advantage is that it’s not dependant on the user´s SIM card nor the phone, being linked instead to an application previously downloaded and installed. The second is that payments are made to the “cloud”, working in the same way as the new cards wireless payment systems, which makes the implementation of this new protocol easier for vendors.

Using NFC technology as a payment method

Using NFC technology as a payment method

Security

Although it may seem that the opposite would be true, NFC is actually a secure method of wireless transmission.

First of all, the limited operating distance makes it difficult for a third-party device to interfere with the connection; secondly, the transmission can be securely encrypted, for example by SSL, so that the data travels safely between devices.

In spite of this, it’s important to underline that security in payments is never 100 percent guaranteed. However, the NFC chip providers must ensure that the transactions have the same security methods as traditional cards. If NFC is going to replace the current payment methods, there will have to be additional security methods, as with MasterCard PayPass, in order to make them more secure.

There are several security mechanisms are being incorporated into this process. The fact that the PayPass chip doesn’t save the card owner’s name is fundamentally important for business credit cards. Instead of this, the terminal at the point of sale sends a signal to the NFC chip, which guarantees that both the chips and terminals carry out the same transaction.

The future of this technology

Analyst Mark Hung from the Gartner research centre predicts that by the end of this year, around 685 million smartphones will be integrated with NFC.

The increase in the number of terminals with NFC will encourage vendors, leisure areas and public transport services, for example, to offer more services so that customers use this technology.

NFC offers a lot of possibilities to facilitate certain tasks, from being able to set up personal profiles to managing home issues or make payments. There are a lot of possibilities that, without a doubt, make your daily life easier. What´s more, the very low price of the labels (available on some websites for less than €1) makes them a perfect and affordable everyday accessory.

Tomás V. (known as tvcastro at mibqyyo) is a smartphone MVP, MyBQ editor, beta tester and active member of the BQ forum. Tomás is passionate about Android and everything around him. He enjoys helping other users on the forum and learns something new every day.