What is NFC?

Near Field Communication

For trend setters everywhere, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is, without doubt, the next big thing. NFC technology uses radio waves over short distances to connect smart posters with smartphones and download everything from the tiny NFC chip or ‘tag’ in the poster with a single elegant swipe.

Many brands have been experimenting with different engagement technologies to close the gap between digital, social, online activities and the “real world”. The problem with such engagement vehicles is that they are virtually all app-based. But requiring an app to engage is a big barrier to entry for consumers. An app-based campaign depends on consumers already having the installed technology to be able to engage with the campaign.

Near Field Communication (NFC) removes this barrier and that’s why it will play the primary role in consumer engagement in the future. Consumers don’t need to install any apps or commit to any system to engage with NFC. It’s all built in. Touch your phone to something, consume content. That’s it.

How NFC Works

Basically, NFC facilitates data transfer between two ‘devices’ when placed a few centimetres apart – swiped or “tapped”. To explain further, this revolutionary wireless technology enables data exchange or information delivery to occur between any two NFC chips – they might both be installed within electronic devices. Two NFC enabled smartphones can instantly transfer data with a simple "tap" together. Or you could tap your NFC-enabled device to the distinctive NFC logo on a smartposter. And behind that logo is the unpowered, passive NFC chip, more commonly referred to as the ‘tag’ or ‘touchpoint’.

In essence you are connecting chips; chips that are embedded in devices or marketing collateral. These chips can be placed virtually anywhere and be encoded with almost any type of information or media.

You can deliver payment options, coupons, loyalty programs and brand apps, links to join interactive games, product information, social media connections and more. So, for example, when the user taps a smartposter with an NFC chip a browser opens up with a video, coupon, list of stores, directions to nearest store, special offer or whatever promotional offer a campaign manager chooses to deploy. 

Download the PDF below to find out more about the versatility of NFC technology for Smart Posters:

NFC Forum smart poster white paper: 818.8 kb

Why NFC is the way forward

NFC is the most scalable and secure of all mobile payment and wireless data transfer technologies and will represent a paradigm shift in how we live – making everyday activities easier and more convenient. Using an NFC enabled smartphone will make accessing new media and content not just truly interactive but much more intuitive; make it easier to pay for things; easier to discover and share information and much easier to use transport – in this one area alone NFC could have a major impact on our lives with travellers using their phones as fare cards or to store long-distance tickets without fear of losing them. Since the technology is two-way, receipts could be sent back to commuters as soon as they enter a gate or complete a journey. Meanwhile travel operators could benefit from reduced operational costs and fare evasion; increased efficiency and environmental sustainability. And the potential uses extend beyond the turnstile. By tapping their phones to posters around stations and on platforms commuters could get updated service information, request assistance or directions and even report problems.

Keys, access cards, tickets, business cards, plastic loyalty cards and payment cards could easily disappear – replaced by your NFC enabled smartphone. In fact it’s been said that the myriad applications for NFC are limited only by imagination!

It’s the simplicity and ease of connectivity of NFC that will make people wonder, in years to come, how they ever lived without it. No services to sign up; no pins or passwords to enter. Just tap, connect, receive and share information, offline and online: when a smartphone becomes an NFC reader the possibilities really are endless. 

Control, manage and update your communication data

In contrast to a Quick Response Code (QR Code), the NFC tag is readable and writeable and the data it holds can easily be modified to update a marketing message or the information to be downloaded to the smartphone. Typically holding from 96 to 4,096 bytes of memory, NFC tags are a secure data retention tool that can store a diverse range of information, from URLs, payment details, loyalty programme details, contacts, personalised marketing messages and other data.

Rewriting the data contained on the NFC tag is a simple process and can be carried out with an NFC tag reader / writer ready to be installed back onto the NFC smart poster whenever a message needs to be updated or changed. It is worth noting that NFC tags are low-cost consumable items and batches of tags are usually supplied with a custom NFC smartposter to enable the campaign manager to simply replace rather than rewrite when the need arises. 

Why NFC tags differ to QR codes

The overriding difference is that a QR code is an app that needs to be installed on the smartphone. In contrast an NFC enabled smartphone is ready to use instantly. After that the key difference is that unlike QR Codes the NFC tag is readable / writeable. A QR Code is a 2D barcode matrix displayed, originally, in a black and white square graphic containing text, URLs and other information and is applied to printed materials to be read by QR barcode readers and mobile phone devices with cameras and QR Code applications.

There are four basic NFC tag types, i.e. Tag 1 Type, Tag 2 Type, Tag 3 Type and Tag 4 Type, with Types 1 and 2 being dual state and either read/write or read-only and Type 3 and Type 4 being read-only, with data entered at manufacture or using a tag writer. All four types have different formats and capacities and are based on ISO 14442 Types A and B, which represent the international standard for contactless smartcards and Sony FeliCa, which conforms to ISO 18092 and is the passive communication mode standard.

NFC - the secure technology

As with any new wireless technology, there may be a concern about the security of vital data and communications yet NFC is actually very secure. Because it operates only at very close ranges (1 to 4 cm), it is difficult to compromise or interfere with the data being transferred using NFC signals. To read or “consume" the data the user needs to take a deliberate action to tap or swipe the tag with their smartphone. In fact a key driver underpinning the growth and take up of this technology is that by its nature NFC is ‘opt in’ unlike Bluetooth and location-based services, providing consumers with more control and countering any concerns regarding privacy.

 
 
 

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