What The Heck Is NFC, Anyway?

no wallet

Photo: Dylan Love/Business Insider

NFC stands for “near field communication,” and it just might have you throwing away your wallet.NFC is a technology that allows for wirelessly transferring data over a very short distance, usually 4 centimeters or less.

The electronics required to make this happen are very small, and that means they can be put into almost anything — tags, cards, even stickers.

What if you put this technology into a smartphone and give it internet capabilities? That’s the question that’s generated a lot of speculation and has tech giants like Google becoming huge proponents of NFC.

Get ready to say goodbye to your wallet and free up a lot of pocket space.

The seeds for NFC were planted in 1983.

Charles Walton patented RFID, radio frequency identification, almost 30 years ago. It was a method for reading data encoded on a tag that is still in prevalent use today.

The NFC Forum established standards in 2004.

Nokia, Philips, and Sony established the Near Field Communication Forum in 2004 with the goal of promoting NFC technology and establishing standards to make sure it worked across devices.

They wanted to make sure that any smartphone or tablet device outfitted with an NFC chip could make a credit card payment or otherwise function as an ID card.

Nokia was the first to put an NFC chip in a phone.

In 2006, Nokia introduced the first phone equipped with an NFC chip -- the Nokia 6131.

NFC really came to life in 2009.

The NFC Forum released Peer-to-Peer Standards in 2009 and enabled people to transfer contact information and URLs between devices.

NFC has come impressive applications.

It can make your wireless devices easier to use.

NFC saves a lot of trouble with Bluetooth devices. There's no more need to search and enter codes in order to pair your keyboard to your computer for example.

And NFC-compatible routers can be configured with nothing more than a tap from an NFC device.

The e-commerce world is in for some changes as well.

Identification, keys, and cards will all be replaced.

NFC isn't perfect though.

Of course NFC has its drawbacks -- the data that's transferred can be picked up with antennas but they would need to be very close, maybe a few meters away.

An RFID jammer can totally stop them from working.

And if you lose your phone, there's nothing that can be done about it. This is the weakest element to the whole system. Be sure to protect all your pertinent information and accounts with PIN numbers.

The future looks promising for NFC.

Bloomberg published a report early this year stating that Apple was looking into developing a mobile payment system that used NFC. There's a lot of speculation that the next iPhone will be able to use NFC technology to pay for everything, and you might never bring your wallet anywhere again.

Similarly, Google announced Google Wallet, an application for its Android operating system that will make use of NFC to make payments at stores.

Need more NFC?

Here's an awesome hour-long presentation from Google I/O on near-field communication.

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