NFC: What is it and what can you do with it?

NFC: What is it and what can you do with it?Let’s discuss NFC technology and how this fairly new technology can make your everyday life a little easier.  NFC has become quite popular with certain Android based smartphones and tablets manufactured over the past few years.  Not so much with Apple, although you might be surprised to know it’s used for Apple Pay.

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. This technology allows devices to communicate with other devices.  Your device looks for what’s called an NFC tag.  A tag looks like a round or square adhesive disk with a small circuit board embedded into it.  You might be using this technology without even knowing it.  For example, you know the bump thing that’s done between smartphones to swap contact information and photos?  That’s NFC.

There are two different implementations of NFC.  Active implementation permits a device to send and receive data.  The best examples of this are smartphones and tablets.  Not all smartphones and tablets support this.  Older phones do not as this has only been embraced over the past few years.  As already mentioned, Apple barely embraces this technology.  That’s a real disappointment to me.  As an owner of an Apple iPhone 6s Plus, it sure would be nice to do some of the stuff I’m about to describe.

Passive implementation includes tags that do not require a power source.  NFC tags have a unique identifier assigned to them.  These tags are typically adhesive based stickers that are applied to a place where your device (smartphone or tablet) will come in contact with it.  Like a car mount.  These tags, once identified by an active device, tell it to do something.  You tell your smartphone or tablet to take an action when it encounters a unique tag.

We have a rather detailed article on NFC Car Mounts that’s worth reading.

Each tag has an action associated with the recognition of the presence of that tag.  Some are pre-programmed into an app.  Other actions can be custom programmed by you, the device owner.

You can stick an NFC tag anywhere.  Your dash, a wall, the bottom of your desk.  Using apps such as Tasker or Trigger, you can program tasks to occur based upon presence of a particular tag.

What kind of stuff can you do with NFC?  Here are a few examples:

  • Start Pandora
  • Turn on Bluetooth
  • Android Pay
  • Share some contact information
  • Share your WiFi access

A few hints to using NFC.  I have found that the phone must be in close contact with the tag to work properly.  Near Field Communication means really near.  You likely need to touch the tag with your smartphone to recognize it.  A tag puts out a very weak signal.

Now, not all Android phones and tablets support near Field Communication.  It’s a safe bet though that if you have one from a main brand, it’s supported.  Fortunately a fairly complete list is updated regularly at NFC World.  You can see all those Samsung, HTC and LG models.  Even Microsoft supports it.  Wait there’s the Apple iPhone 6s Plus!  Sorry.  Apple Pay only.  Hopefully Apple lightens up on that soon although I won’t hold my breath.