What is NFC or Near Field Communication? Is It Technology That Matters?

More and more gadgets are getting released with this so-called NFC chip installed inside them. In fact, NFC technology is now being touted by Nokia as one of main selling points of its several yet-to-be released smartphones.

But what is NFC, exactly? And more importantly, is it technology that matters?

Defining NFC

The Official NFC Logo

NFC or Near Field Communication is a wireless connectivity technology that aims to make "[...] life easier and more convenient for consumers [...] by making it simpler to make transactions, exchange digital content, and connect electronic devices with a touch." [source: nfc-forum(dot)org/aboutnfc/]

The operative word in this description is 'touch' -- because that's all that's needed for two objects with built-in NFC chip to connect and interact with each other.

Uses of NFC

NFC can be used to transfer digital content including files, photos, videos, links and contacts - among other sutff, connect devices wirelessly without set-up, transfer payments, and even allows users to follow each other in social networking sites.

Although NFC isn't particularly a 'new' technology as it's been around for many years now, perhaps it's only now that we're seeing such a broad range of gadgets donning the NFC chip.

OK. So how is NFC different from Bluetooth? To tell you frankly, their individual descriptions sound almost alike.

That's true. The uses of Bluetooth and NFC are largely similar but they are different in three ways, basically:

1. Bluetooth covers a wider range or a greater distance for communication, 10 meters to be exact, while NFC only works within a distance of a few centimeters.

2. NFC slays Bluetooth in terms of speed of communication. It only takes 0.1 of a second for two gadgets with built-in NFC chip to connect with each other while, based on experience, it takes several seconds to just establish a Bluetooth connection.

3. NFC consumes far less power compared to Bluetooth.

Will NFC even matter or prove important to the life of the everyday consumer or the casual gadget user?

I think NFC will only matter to the lives of people if a lot of institutions - including the academe, the transport system, healthcare system, among others - will adopt the technology and take advantage of its many benefits. Like what I always say, technology that succeeds is technology that becomes part of the lives of the users.

Right now though (in most territories around the world), gadget to gadget interaction (e.g. smartphone to smartphone, smartphone to headset, smartphone to speakers) will be the sole use of NFC for a lot of users, which is - I think - still a great way of introducing the technology to them.

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