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Near field technology (NFC) is a form of technology that allows wireless communication between two devices over short distances. This form of communication usually involves a target and a reader. The distance between such devices is limited to just a few centimeters. For the process to occur, a reader needs to have a power source. On the other hand, the target does not necessarily need to have a power source. NFC technology is closely related to Radio –frequency identification technology.
These two technologies share similar standards. NFC’s standards are defined by the NFC forum that was initiated as a joint effort by Nokia, Phillips, and Sony corporations (Want 5). This technology is mostly used in smart phones and other similar devices. NFC technology uses tags that contain information that can be interpreted by NFC enabled devices. These tags are mostly small stickers that can be put on products or even documents.
Use of NFC technology has increased around the world. In countries such as United States and China, NFC technology has been incorporated in various sectors of those economies. An example of such is the use of contactless mobile payment. It is for this reason that NFC has become a tool of interest for businesses around the globe. In 2011, the number of mobile users in the world was estimated to be five billion.
This number is still expected to rise in the next five years. The incorporation of NFC into mobile phones makes this technology a viable business tool. Henceforth, NFC can be used to serve and communicate with customers even in remote places. Recently, some mobile application developers in conjunction with mobile phone manufacturers have incorporated this technology into their devices. Phones like Samsung Galaxy, Nexus S, and Nokia C7 have this ability to scan and read passive tags.
NFC operates on three different interfaces. These are NFC-A, NFC-B, and NFC-F. Interfaces A and B are based on the ISO18092 standard. Type F operates on ISO-14433 standard. NFC operates under a protocol suite that has been defined by the NFC Forum.
This technology operates under the data link and physical layers of the OSI reference model. When a device is NFC enabled, it contains an interface for managing tags. Such a device can also create a tag as well as read one. A tag stored in one device can also be read by another NFC enabled device.
Applications of NFC
One of the strong points of NFC technology is that one enabled device can accomplish various tasks using different applications. One of such applications is E-Passport. This where passports are equipped with a contactless smart card that incorporates a digital signature. The data stored in this chip is used for authentication purposes.
Another application is when making mobile payments. With NFC technology, it is possible to carry out cashless transactions. Cashless transactions are easy to document and track. This makes it easy to keep records. NFC can also act as a better alternative to the conventional barcode.
This has been one of the most popular applications of NFC yet. Barcodes have various shortcomings. For instance, they have to operate on a clear line of site. They are also easily obstructed by dirt. This makes NFC a viable replacement for barcodes. NFC does not necessarily require a clear line of site for its operation. For instance, this replacement has occurred during marathons where a competitor’s shoe is tagged in order to establish the start and stop times of the race.
NFC technology is widely applied during sorting procedures. It is mainly preferred because it saves time and eliminates chances for errors. This sorting procedure is incorporated in hospitals, airports, and during sporting events.
Uses of NFC in business
One way in which businesses can make use of NFC is by turning it into an information-sharing tool. This ensures seamless transfer of files on demand. Lately, smart phones and tablets have been replacing computers. Most businesses prefer using hand-held devices as opposed to laptops and computers. This means this technology can be used to exchange ideas or even prepare for presentations.
NFC is a tested and proven payment tool. Mobile payments are being preferred over card payments. This means businesses can use NFC to accept payments from clients. The vice-versa can also apply where businesses can use NFC to make payments. The main advantage of using NFC is because it incorporates robust security standards.
In addition, only a short distance is required for a transaction to occur between two NFC enabled devices. This is also an added advantage in terms of security. Some of the credit card companies that have incorporated this payment system in their regiment include PayPass and MasterCard. The latest Blackberry models can access applications that can work in tandem with these companies.
One of the more recent uses of NFC technology is in advertisements and promotions. This is where promotional campaigns are expected to be more interactive. For instance, using NFC it is possible to put a tag that enables targeted audience to respond instantly. This response may be concerning further information on the product or even general responses. An example of this is a tag put on an advertisement poster on the street.
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By scanning such a tag, a prospective customer can be able to purchase a ticket instantly. The main advantage of using NFC in promotions and advertisements is because its response system is instant. Other methods of advertising offer unreliable avenues of gauging customer or user experiences. NFC can also help merchants rate the conversion rates of their campaigns.
Displaying product information is sometimes a tedious task for most businesses. Most product information is often displayed on the product. Some products lack adequate space for displaying this information. At other times, too much product information makes a product’s package unattractive.
Other information can be concerning matters such as product improvement. In other scenarios, a company might want to clear up some controversies surrounding their products. These tags can also be included in important documents such as invoices. For instance, a tag in an invoice can offer a direct link to a payment mechanism. Some of these uses of NFC are opening up new frontiers for businesses. This is because most of them are providing businesses with a simplified way of conducting business.
Challenges Associated with NFC Use
Currently, NFC use is one of the newest trends in business. This technology has also simplified various business applications. However, its use is also associated with various challenges. Some of these challenges are arising as NFC’s use progresses. One of the main challenges associated with NFC use in businesses is security.
Because NFC operates on a short-range distance, it is secure from a number of threats that are commonly associated with other communication technologies. However, NFC is still vulnerable to Eavesdropping, data-modification, and man in the middle attacks.
Eavesdropping refers to scenarios where unintended recipients can be able to read data through interception. This data is intercepted when it is moving from a sender to a receiver. In this attack, someone with a stronger modulation radio signal is able to retrieve a useable signal during the transaction. This attack can be prevented by ensuring that a chip that is storing data is in a passive device.
Another form of attack involves data modification. In this case, attackers are able to intercept and modify data before it reaches its destination. This attack can easily be prevented by putting strong authentication measures in place. Most payment systems ensure that there are strong authentication measures. Data can be modified in a number of ways including corruption and insertion.
Man in the middle attack is a common threat to various communication applications. NFC is one of them. In this scenario, communication is intercepted by an attacker. The attacker then manipulates the system to simulate a private connection (Finkenzeller 34).
This attack is usually used to solicit information from unsuspecting users. This information can then be used to conduct fraudulent transactions. Due to the close proximity of devices using NFC, it is almost impossible to accomplish this attack. This attack can be mitigated by making sure that only one terminal has an active radio frequency during a transaction.
The rising number of hand-held device users is on the rise. This means it is imperative for businesses to embrace NFC. The technology has changed the consumer experience and benefited most businesses. Almost all hand held device manufacturers have incorporated this technology into their products. With time, this technology will dominate commercial activities. However, there are security threats associated with NFC that still need to be addressed.
Finkenzeller, Klaus. RFID Handbook: Fundamentals and Applications in Contactless
Smart cards, Radio Frequency Identification and Near-field Communication, New York, New York: Wiley, 2010. Print.
Want, Roy. “Near Field Communication.” Pervasive Computing 10.3 (2011): 4-7. Print.