Changes in iOS-13 to boost NFC popularity: Page 3 of 6

September 17, 2019 //By Francis Lamotte
While Near Field Communication (NFC) first appeared in mobiles in the early 2000s, it has long remained in the shadows vis-à-vis other wireless technologies. Until Apple’s adoption for payments in 2015, NFC was mostly found on high-end Android mobiles.

Where is NFC used with mobiles?

Many NFC applications have been demonstrated on mobiles, but its successes have been with the card emulation and reader modes. NFC’s first success was in supplanting smart cards with mobiles. Mobiles like smart cards include secure electronic components (a.k.a. secure elements) and are present everywhere in our daily lives. It was only logical that the most popular smart card applications (payment and transport) would quickly become key applications for NFC mobiles. Payment services initially offered by Apple, Google and Samsung are today being duplicated by bank-specific solutions. Transportation solutions based on NFC are spreading in all countries following initial successes in Asia. Soon, having a set of cards in your wallet will be 'has been' – all replaced by one mobile.

Example of a standalone NFC tag.

The Reader mode has seen less success than card emulation. Even though NFC mobiles can read and write data contained in an NFC tag, this mode finds itself in competition with cheap but static barcodes and QR codes. While QR codes beat NFC tags on initial cost, this thinking ignores NFC advantages:

  • Aesthetic – tags can visually be made to look like anything, to project brand image, to integrate product packaging and thus meet consumer’s aesthetic expectations.

  • Durable – QR codes can be erased, damaged, or hidden. NFC tags protect. Tags can even be placed behind plastic shielding in severe industrial environments.

  • Modifiable – Data in tags is re-writeable. A user, with the appropriate access permissions, can update them. For example, an NFC tag might contain the WEP key for the Wi-Fi hotspot at a café. Patrons tap the tag with their mobile to initiate the connection with the correct WEP. The owner can easily, periodically update the WEP on the tag to reduce risks of hacking.

  • Dynamic – With its memory (EEPROM or other memory buffer), an NFC tag can act as a data relay between a mobile and another processor, provided the tag has a second interface for the processor.


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