About Near Field Communication

Near field communication, abbreviated NFC, is a form of contactless communication between devices like smartphones or tablets. Contactless communication allows a user to wave the smartphone over a NFC compatible device to send information without needing to touch the devices together or go through multiple steps setting up a connection. Fast and convenient, NFC technology is popular in parts of Europe and Asia, and is quickly spreading throughout the United States.

Near field communication maintains interoperability between different wireless communication methods like Bluetooth and other NFC standards including FeliCa -- popular in Japan -- through the NFC Forum. Founded in 2004 by Sony, Nokia, and Philips, the forum enforces strict standards that manufacturers must meet when designing NFC compatible devices. This ensures that NFC is secure and remains easy-to-use with different versions of the technology. Compatibility is the key to the growth of NFC as a popular payment and data communication method. It must be able to communicate with other wireless technologies and be able to interact with different types of NFC transmissions.

The technology behind NFC allows a device, known as a reader, interrogator, or active device, to create a radio frequency current that communicates with another NFC compatible device or a small NFC tag holding the information the reader wants. Passive devices, such as the NFC tag in smart posters, store information and communicate with the reader but do not actively read other devices. Peer-to-peer communication through two active devices is also a possibility with NFC. This allows both devices to send and receive information.

Both businesses and individuals benefit from near field communication technology. By integrating credit cards, subway tickets, and paper coupons all into one device, a customer can board a train, pay for groceries, redeem coupons or store loyalty points, and even exchange contact information all with the wave of a smartphone. Faster transaction times mean less waiting in line and happier customers. Fewer physical cards to carry around means the customer is less likely to lose one or have it stolen.

Who's currently in on the action with NFC technology and mobile payments? Google has launched Google Wallet that supports MasterCard PayPass, PayPal offers money transfers between smartphones, and other companies are expected to follow suit. As the technology grows, more NFC compatible smartphones will be available and more stores will offer NFC card readers for customer convenience.

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