General Studies IIIScience and Tech

NFC Technology- Near Field Communication Technology


Google Pay has recently launched a new feature in India, ‘Tap to pay for UPI’, in collaboration with Pine Labs. The feature makes use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

What is Near Field Communication (NFC Technology)?

  • It is a short-range wireless connectivity technology that allows NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other and transfer information quickly and easily with a single touch — whether to pay bills, exchange business cards, download coupons or share a document.
  • It transmits data through electromagnetic radio fields, to enable communication between two devices. 
    • Both devices must contain NFC chips, as transactions take place within a very short distance. 
    • NFC-enabled devices must be either physically touching or within a few centimetres from each other for data transfer to occur.
  • In 2004, consumer electronics companies, Nokia, Philips and Sony together formed the NFC Forum, which outlined the architecture for NFC technology to create powerful new consumer-driven products.
    • Nokia released the first NFC-enabled phone in 2007

How does it work?

  • Google Pay has been the first among UPI apps to bring the Tap to Pay feature to work on POS terminals.
  •  It will allow users with UPI accounts configured on Google Pay to make payments just by tapping their NFC-enabled Android smartphones on any Pine Labs Android POS terminal. 
  • Once users tap their phones on the POS terminal, it will automatically open the Google pay app with the payment amount pre-filled. 
  • Users can then verify the amount and merchant name and authenticate the payment, using their UPI PIN.
  •  They will be notified once the payment is successful.
  • The process is much faster compared to scanning a QR code or entering the UPI-linked mobile number which has been the conventional way till now.

NFC applications

NFC technology has evolved from a combination of contactless identification and interconnection technologies including RFID and it allows connectivity to be achieved very easily over distances of a few centimetres. Simply by bringing two electronic devices close together they are able to communicate and this greatly simplifies the issues of identification and security, making it far easier to exchange information. In this way it is anticipated that Near Field Communications, NFC technology will allow the complex set-up procedures required for some longer range technologies to be avoided.

Near field communication NFC lends itself ideally to a whole variety of applications. These include:

  • Payment cards
  • Ticketing
  • Mobile phones, PDAs, etc
  • Check-out cash registers or “point-of-sale” equipment
  • Turnstiles
  • Vending machines
  • Parking meters
  • ATMs
  • Applications around the office and house, e.g. garage doors, etc

A further application that was proposed was that NFC connections could be used to configure the connection between two wireless devices. All that was required to configure them to operate together wirelessly would be to bring them together to effect the NFC “connection”. This would initiate the a set-up procedure, communication could take place over the NFC interface to configure the longer range wireless device such as Bluetooth, 802.11 or other relevant standard. Once set up the two devices could operate over the longer range allowed by the second communication system.

NFC near field communication is ideally placed to provide a link with the contactless smart card technology that is already used for ticketing and payment applications. It is broadly compatible with the existing standards that have been set in place. Accordingly it is quite possible that NFC enabled devices could be used for these applications as well.

There are many other applications for near field communications, NFC. These could include general downloading data from digital cameras or mobile phones, as well as any other data communication required between two devices.

Differences between NFC and other wireless technologies

NFC is a technology that is distinct from other wireless technologies, not only in the technology used, but also the applications envisaged.

  • Bluetooth:   Although both Bluetooth and NFC can be used to transfer data, Bluetooth has been designed to transfer data over much greater distances. NFC is designed to be close proximity only.
  • Wi-Fi / IEEE 802.11:   Wi-Fi is designed for local area networks, and is not a short range peer to peer technology.
  • RFID:   Although RFID is very similar to NFC in many respects, RFID is a much broader technology. NFC is a specific case which is defined by standards enabling it to be interoperable.

Relying on the radiated near field for its communication, the whole concept of NFC is based around the fact that distance over which communication can be made is limited, and this is what is key to its success and this makes it very different from other forms of communication.

How safe is this technology?

  • NFC technology is designed for an operation between devices within a few centimetres from each other. This makes it difficult for attackers to record the communication between the devices compared to other wireless technologies which have a working distance of several metres.
  • The user of the NFC-enabled device determines by the touch gesture which entity the NFC communication should take place with, making it more difficult for the attacker to get connected.
  • The security level of the NFC communication is by default higher compared to other wireless communication protocols.
  • Since the receiving device reads data the instant one sends it, NFCs also reduce the chance of human error.

Source: The Hindu

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