What is Near field communication (NFC)?

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Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range wireless connectivity technology based on standards that allows for simple and secure two-way interactions between electronic devices. It enables contactless transactions, access to digital content, and the connection of electronic devices with a single touch. NFC operates through inductive coupling, where devices communicate via induced magnetic fields between transmit and receive coils. This technology is widely used for wireless power transfer in applications such as Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable sensors due to its low power consumption, small size, and high data transfer efficiency. NFC has various applications, including enhancing user identification and payment methods, supporting biomedical fields like healthcare and disease monitoring, and enabling no-contact attendance systems and library management systems.

Near Field Communication (NFC) journey begins with its roots in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, evolving into a versatile communication tool that has found its place in various aspects of modern life. According to the research, Initially developed by Philips and Sony in 2002, NFC was designed to enable contactless communications, leveraging the principles of RFID to facilitate short-range interactions between devices. This innovation was aimed at simplifying data exchange and transactions, making it a precursor to a new era of connectivity.

Types of NFC devices

There are two types of NFC devices i.e. Passive NFC devices and Active NFC devices. There is the brief description in the followings:

1. Passive NFC devices

Passive NFC devices, as highlighted in the provided contexts, encompass a wide range of applications and functionalities, each designed to leverage near-field communication technology without the need for their power sources. These devices, such as passive intelligent electronic locks, utilize NFC electromagnetic field charging to operate without batteries or external power supplies, making them highly efficient and convenient for users. The design often includes an NFC antenna, a control unit, and temporary energy storage units to collect and store energy from an NFC signal electromagnetic field provided by an NFC-enabled device, which then powers the lock mechanism. Similarly, passive NFC positioning systems and passive temperature and humidity sensing magnetic patches are designed to operate within a detectable range by monitoring devices or through mobile phone applications, respectively, without actively sending signals for positioning or requiring batteries, thus ensuring user privacy and convenience.

2. Active NFC devices

Active NFC devices, in contrast to passive counterparts, have the ability to both send and receive data, making them essential in the dynamic field of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. According to the research published on 2021, these devices, such as smartphones and certain types of smart cards, are equipped with their own power sources, allowing them to initiate communication with other NFC-enabled devices without requiring an external power source. Active NFC devices can function in various modes, including peer-to-peer, enabling direct data exchange with another active device, taking advantage of low protocol overhead and the ability to handle different data formats for efficient communication. They can also adjust their transmitting power based on different application scenarios, facilitating transactions at varying distances, which is an improvement over the fixed transmitting power mode of previous technologies.

How Does Near-Field Communication Technology Work?

Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology enables short-range wireless interactions between electronic devices, allowing for various applications such as contactless transactions and digital content access through a simple touch. According to the research, NFC operates through an oscillation circuit, where a rectifier bridge rectifies the voltage across the circuit, and a voltage-controlled oscillator provides a reference frequency based on the output voltage of the rectifier bridge. This technology includes a functional chip connected to antennas via an antenna matching circuit, which allows for the free switching between antennas to reduce cost and device size. NFC circuits can receive radio frequency control signals, generating pulse width modulation signals according to these controls, and utilize non-volatile memory for configuring these signals. The simplicity and security of NFC technology make it ideal for two-way interactions between devices over short distances, typically a few centimeters. Devices with NFC capability can adjust their antenna connection terminals’ shunt resistance in response to the amplitude of incoming NFC signals to optimize signal reception. NFC’s integration into mobile applications, such as those used in museums, demonstrates its versatility in providing instant data exchange and interactive experiences. Recent advancements in NFC technology include integrating it with sensors for applications in personal healthcare, showcasing the potential for powerless and wireless signal transferring. NFC devices are equipped with sophisticated receiving and transmitting modules to ensure efficient signal processing and power management, highlighting the technology’s advanced operational framework.

Different modes of operation of NFC

To operate NFC, there are different modes to follow. Some of the modes of operation of NFC are:

1.      Reader/Writer Mode

The Reader/Writer Mode of Near Field Communication (NFC) enables one-way data transfer from an active NFC reader to a passive NFC tag, with low protocol overhead and the ability to handle various data formats. This is beneficial for applications that require efficient and secure data exchange. The mode is enhanced by features like “Mobile Mode with Auto-Collection,” which allows users to switch between single-shot and continuous scan operations through actions like a long press, eliminating the need for dedicated scanners and making the technology more user-friendly. Systems with a contactless reader and transponder show the reader’s ability to act as the master in the communication bus, ensuring structured and controlled data exchange.

2.      Peer-to-Peer Mode

Near Field Communication (NFC) operates in various modes, with Peer-to-Peer (P2P) mode being a fundamental operational mode that allows two NFC-enabled devices to exchange data directly. This mode is commonly used in applications such as Android Beams or Personal Health Device Communication (PHDC), where small amounts of information are transferred between devices. However, it faces challenges in ensuring security measures such as mutual authentication, data privacy, and integrity, which are not specified by current standards. The significance of the P2P mode is further emphasized by its inclusion in different NFC devices and systems, enabling a wide range of applications from simple data exchange to more complex interactions. For example, the Samsung Nexus S, released in 2011 with Android 2.3, offered basic support for the NFC P2P protocol, leading to increased research and development activities aimed at enhancing this mode’s capabilities.

3.      Wireless charging mode

The wireless charging mode of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is a significant advancement in wireless power transfer, offering both data and power transmission capabilities. This mode is particularly advantageous for efficiently charging small devices such as wireless headsets, smart bands, and smart glasses, utilizing existing NFC technology in devices since late 2018. Recent studies have explored the integration of wireless charging (WLC) and NFC antenna techniques, leveraging the high-frequency impedance characteristics of WLC coils and the second inductive region for NFC antenna operation to enhance efficiency and expand bandwidth for improved performance.

4.      Card Emulation Mode

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology enables various modes of operation, with Card Emulation Mode being notable for its ability to convert NFC-enabled devices into virtual cards, allowing for transactions and interactions similar to physical cards. This mode is particularly beneficial in payment systems and access control, where the device mimics an NFC card to communicate with card readers. Innovations in this field include methods for automatically selecting an NFC emulation card based on the detection of an NFC radio frequency field and subsequent communication protocols, which significantly enhance the efficiency of NFC payments by reducing the need for manual selection and improving transaction speed.

Tags used in NFC

Near Field Communication (NFC) tags enable short-range wireless communication between devices, storing data like URLs and encrypted keys. The following contains the tag used in NFC and they are:

1. Type 1 tags

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, a key component of the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, utilizes various types of tags to enable short-range communication between devices. Type 1 tags stand out due to their unique specifications and applications. These tags, part of the broader NFC tag classification, are designed to be versatile and user-friendly, supporting read and write operations, making them suitable for a wide range of applications, from healthcare to retail marketing. In the healthcare sector, NFC tags, including Type 1, are used to improve patient care by providing quick access to medical records and facilitating communication between patients and healthcare providers.[*]

2. Type 2 tags

Near Field Communication (NFC) Type 2 tags are essential components of the NFC ecosystem, enabling a wide range of applications from healthcare to retail marketing. These tags, known for their short-range communication capability, are designed to store and transmit data to NFC-enabled devices, such as smartphones, which are prevalent in various sectors. The utilization of NFC Type 2 tags on an FPGA platform, as discussed by Leikanger, showcases their potential for further exploration and development in sensor and measurement systems, demonstrating their versatility and adaptability. In healthcare, NFC tags have been creatively used to store critical patient information, allowing quick and easy access for paramedics in emergency situations, improving patient care. The retail industry has also implemented NFC tags in developing mobile prototype systems for analyzing customer purchase behavior, with the goal of increasing retailer revenue through personalized marketing activities.

3. Type 3 tags

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, a key component of the growing Internet of Things (IoT) field, utilizes different types of tags to support a wide range of applications in areas such as healthcare and business. Among these, Type 3 tags are notable for their unique features and uses. These tags, within the larger NFC system, play a crucial role in enabling secure and efficient communication between devices over short distances. NFC Type 3 tags are specifically designed to handle complex communication protocols that are not directly supported by NFC terminal devices, expanding the range of NFC applications. For example, in healthcare, NFC Type 3 tags can improve patient care by storing important medical information that can be quickly accessed by paramedics during emergencies, demonstrating the practical value of these tags in critical sectors.

4. Type 4 tags

Near Field Communication (NFC) Type 4 tags act as a sophisticated interface for encrypted or complex communication protocols that go beyond the native support of NFC terminal devices, such as smartphones. These tags are essential for enabling advanced functions through integrated circuit cards (ICCs) by allowing the transfer of commands at an application level using designated memory locations. This enables a smooth exchange of data between the terminal and the ICC applet even without protocol-level message controls. The versatility of NFC Type 4 tags extends to various applications, including healthcare, where they are used to quickly store and retrieve critical patient information in emergencies, showcasing their ability to securely hold large amounts of data.

5. Type 5 tags

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is crucial in the field of short-range wireless connectivity, utilizes different types of tags to support a wide range of applications, from secure transactions to innovative healthcare solutions. Type 5 tags, which are compatible with the ISO 15693/NFC 5 standard, are particularly notable for their use in battery-less passive sensor tags. This is exemplified in the creation of a new RFID/NFC frontend IC that is designed for low-power and cost-effective industrial or biomedical applications. This advancement highlights the versatility and effectiveness of Type 5 tags within the broader NFC ecosystem. According to the research, Type 4 tags are also important, serving as a protocol interface for complex or encrypted communication protocols that are not inherently supported by NFC terminal devices. The incorporation of NFC technology into smartphones has greatly expanded the usefulness of NFC tags in various fields, such as healthcare, where they can store critical patient information for emergency situations, and in retail marketing, where they enable personalized customer engagement strategies.

Benefits of NFC

NFC technology offers convenience, security, and sharing benefits in various sectors. Some of the benefits of NFC are:

1. Convenience

NFC (Near Field Communication) technology provides users with a high level of convenience in various aspects of daily life. With NFC-enabled devices, individuals can make contactless payments by tapping their smartphone or credit card on a compatible reader, eliminating the need to carry cash or swipe cards. This efficient process saves time and reduces the risk of lost or stolen payment methods. Additionally, NFC enables seamless data transfer between devices, facilitating the sharing of contact information, photos, or documents by bringing them into close proximity. This feature simplifies the exchange of information, enhancing convenience and efficiency. Moreover, NFC can be utilized for access control, allowing users to unlock doors, access public transportation, or enter secure areas with a simple tap of their device, thereby reducing the reliance on physical keys or passes.

2. Security

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is widely used for its convenience in applications such as electronic payments and access control. However, it has been scrutinized for potential security vulnerabilities. Significant progress has been made to enhance the security of NFC transactions and reduce risks. For example, encoding a hidden, one-time-use key onto the carrier wave during communication improves protection against eavesdropping, ensuring that only the intended recipient can interpret the transmitted data. Secure payment and verification schemes for NFC mobile electronic ticketing, which utilize offline session key generation and distribution technology, provide strong defenses against common attacks like man-in-the-middle and brute force attacks, thus increasing the security of NFC applications in various fields. Additionally, security protocols that verify the authenticity and validity of NFC data exchange through certificate and signature records help prevent tag manipulation and other networking attacks, safeguarding the integrity of NFC devices and associated data.

3. Sharing

The benefits of Near Field Communication (NFC) in the realm of sharing are diverse and transformative across various sectors. NFC technology enables secure and efficient data transmission over short distances, making it an ideal tool for sharing sensitive information between devices without the risk of unauthorized access. This is highlighted by the secure encryption modules in sharing devices based on NFC short-distance transmission. According to the research, this technology simplifies the car renting process significantly by allowing direct communication between mobile phones and car-mounted systems, streamlining the renting, reservation, and payment processes. In the industrial environment, NFC offers the advantage of delivering localization-based information easily, enhancing operational efficiency by providing instant access to relevant data in manufacturing plants.

4. Targeted & Context-Specific Advertising

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology enhances the effectiveness and precision of targeted and context-specific advertising, providing benefits for both advertisers and consumers. By utilizing NFC’s short-range wireless capabilities, advertisers can deliver personalized advertisements directly to consumers’ mobile devices, ensuring that promotional content is relevant and timely. This approach simplifies the operation and control of advertising campaigns, while also ensuring accuracy and effectiveness through pay-for-performance models, as demonstrated by Li Chuntao’s NFC-based targeted advertising system.

NFC Drawbacks and Security Risks

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, used in contactless payments and access control, is vulnerable to security risks like man-in-the-middle attacks, DOS, signal interception, and jamming. Some of them are explained below:

1. Power Constraints

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology offers numerous benefits for short-range communication but is not without drawbacks and security risks, particularly related to power constraints. NFC devices often lack strong encryption due to limitations in computation, power, and cost, making them vulnerable to various security attacks. According to the research, this vulnerability is further heightened in RFID tags, which have limited energy and struggle to implement complex security algorithms, making them targets for attacks. The vulnerabilities of NFC, a subset of RFID technologies, include concerns such as signal interception and jamming, especially in sensitive applications like banking and access control.

2. Security Concerns

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, while enhancing convenience in various applications such as electronic payments, access control, and information sharing, is plagued by significant security vulnerabilities and risks. These vulnerabilities arise from NFC’s susceptibility to various attacks, including man-in-the-middle, denial of service, signal interception, and jamming, which can result in the exposure of sensitive user data and financial information. The inherent security weaknesses in the EMV protocol utilized for NFC transactions, particularly in mutual authentication and the exchange of banking information, further compound these risks, leaving NFC-enabled devices vulnerable to data theft within a range of approximately 10 cm.

3. Digital Pickpocketing

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, while providing convenience in various applications such as digital payments and access control, is plagued by security vulnerabilities that pose significant risks to users. One concerning threat is digital pickpocketing, where attackers exploit NFC’s short-range wireless communication to illicitly access and steal personal data without the victim’s knowledge. This type of attack is made possible by NFC’s vulnerabilities, including susceptibility to man-in-the-middle, denial of service, and relay attacks, which can result in the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information.

Applications of NFC Technology

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology enhances packaging and sales efficiency, enabling contactless payment systems, and improving customer interaction in various sectors like packaging and sales. There are some applications and they are:

1. Ticketing

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has undergone rapid development and is known for its ease of use. According to the research, it has significantly transformed ticketing systems in various sectors by providing a seamless and efficient method for transactions and access control. In the realm of public transport, NFC technology is used to sell tickets, offering a contactless and hassle-free experience for commuters. Studies have highlighted its application in buses and public transport systems. This technology simplifies the ticket purchasing process and enhances security in public transport by automating fare deductions based on the distance traveled, thereby improving safety and convenience for commuters.

2. Contactless payments

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has significantly transformed the landscape of contactless payments, providing a convenient and secure method for financial transactions. The rapid development of NFC has resulted in its widespread application in various domains, including electronic payments, which are facilitated by a simple tap of an NFC-enabled device or card against a payment terminal. This technology, derived from RFID, enables short-range wireless connectivity that streamlines transactions, allowing consumers to conduct contactless transactions quickly.

3. Easy data transfers

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology enables easy and secure data transfers across a range of applications by utilizing a “tap and transfer” approach for short-range communication. This technology is integrated into smartphones, allowing for numerous uses such as contactless payments, where data is securely exchanged between client applications and payment systems, simplifying trade processes and enhancing transaction security. NFC is not limited to financial transactions; it is also utilized in the healthcare sector to enhance communication between patients and healthcare providers, as well as in social networking, entertainment, and education, demonstrating its versatility. The combination of NFC with Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) showcases its role in the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling devices to communicate data with a single touch, streamlining data collection and transfer processes in various industries.

4. Electronic voting

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has significantly transformed the field of electronic voting by providing a secure, efficient, and user-friendly method for casting votes. The incorporation of NFC into electronic voting systems enables quick and accurate verification of voters, ensuring that only authorized individuals can participate in the voting process. This is achieved through various methods, including embedding NFC technology into election cards, using NFC tags to store voter information, and integrating NFC with smart devices to facilitate voting. Furthermore, NFC-enabled electronic voting systems have shown a notable decrease in fraud, costs, and inefficiencies associated with traditional voting methods. These systems not only streamline the voting and counting process but also enhance transparency and accuracy by preventing duplicate votes and enabling real-time vote counting.

5. Healthcare and fitness

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is revolutionizing the healthcare and fitness sectors by enabling more efficient, personalized, and accessible care. In healthcare, NFC facilitates the development of Healthcare Internet of Things (H-IoT) systems, which significantly improve the quality of care while reducing costs through the use of last-generation medical sensors and point-of-care (PoC) testing. These systems ensure secure data management and storage, crucial for protecting patient information from malicious actors, by proposing novel cloud-based system architectures for data collected from NFC/RFID medical sensors.

6. World Cup tickets

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, with its short-range wireless capabilities, presents a revolutionary approach to enhancing the experience of World Cup attendees through streamlined ticketing processes. The application of NFC in mobile ticketing, as discussed by Geeta S. Kavitake and Kanchan S. Gorde, allows customers to use their NFC-enabled mobile phones as tickets, offering a faster and more convenient entry compared to traditional smart card applications. This technology builds upon the principles of RFID, enabling seamless data exchange between devices in close proximity, thereby simplifying user identification and entry validation at event venues.

7. Advertising

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has significantly impacted the advertising sector by offering innovative and interactive ways to engage consumers. The integration of NFC in mobile devices has led to the development of smart posters, which serve as a low-cost marketing strategy, particularly beneficial in the tourism industry by providing intuitive advertisements through NFC tags. This technology has also been utilized in packaging to enhance consumer interaction with products. By embedding NFC labels in packaging, companies can provide customers with detailed product information, origin, and even promotional offers such as discounts or coupons directly through their smartphones, thereby promoting sales efficiency and product security.

8. Record keeping

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, with its roots in RFID, has evolved to offer diverse applications in record keeping, significantly enhancing data management and accessibility. In healthcare, NFC enables the secure and reliable storage of important data such as electronic medical records (EMRs) on mobile devices, facilitating instant data transfer and modification without the need for internet connectivity, thereby overcoming the limitations of internet-based EMR systems. This technology supports the development of mobile health care systems (M-health), offering a secure and accessible structure for patient information management in various healthcare settings, including hospitals and home care, while also preventing the misuse of physicians’ stamps through electronic versions [*].

9. Automatic check-in systems

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has significantly transformed the landscape of automatic check-in systems across various sectors, offering a seamless, efficient, and secure method for identity verification and process facilitation. According to the research in the educational domain, NFC technology has been utilized to streamline the attendance tracking process, allowing students to check in to classes, lectures, and exams swiftly by tapping their smartphones, thereby saving time and reducing manual workload for educators. Similarly, the hospitality industry has embraced NFC for enhancing guest experiences through expedited hotel check-in processes. Guests can now bypass traditional front-desk registration, directly accessing their rooms and controlling room appliances via NFC-enabled devices, which not only shortens the check-in time but also significantly improves the overall guest experience. Retail and service sectors have also adopted NFC check-in systems to personalize customer interactions; for instance, customers can automatically check in upon entering a store, enabling businesses to prepare their orders in advance and offer a tailored shopping experience.

10. Home automation

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, with its short-range wireless capabilities, has significantly influenced the realm of home automation, offering a blend of convenience, security, and accessibility. The development of secure home automation systems utilizing NFC tags and mobile applications has enabled real-time monitoring and control of home environments, including environmental parameters and power consumption analysis, thereby promising cost-effectiveness and enhanced user convenience. This technology has been applied in various domains, including food ordering systems through smartphones, demonstrating NFC’s versatility and ease of integration into daily activities. Innovative applications such as NFC-embedded wristbands for home automation highlight the technology’s potential to simplify interactions within smart cities, making life more comfortable. NFC’s widespread implementation across different fields, including healthcare and education, underscores its adaptability and the growing reliance on smartphones as central devices for diverse applications. The technology’s role in automating and controlling home appliances through mobile applications further emphasizes its contribution to energy efficiency and security in the home automation sector. Additionally, NFC-enabled digital locks offer low-cost, user-friendly solutions for home security, enhancing the smart home experience. The technology also supports individuals with motor impairments, facilitating their interaction with home automation systems through simple and intuitive means. The integration of NFC in IoT-driven smart home systems, combined with wireless sensor networks and cloud computing, illustrates a comprehensive approach to achieving a smart life.

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