Near Field Communication Technology

Why in News?

Recently Google Pay has launched a new feature in India, ‘Tap to pay for UPI’, in collaboration with Pine Labs. This feature used Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

  • The functionality will permit users with NFC-enabled Android smartphones and UPI (Unified Payments Interface) accounts linked to Google Pay to perform transactions just by tapping their phones on any Pine Labs Android point-of-sale (POS) terminal across the country.
  • The process is much faster than scanning a QR code/ entering the UPI-linked mobile number which has been the conventional way till now.
  • Apple introduced Tap to Pay on the iPhone in February 2022.

What is Near Field Communication technology (NFC) and how does it work?

  • NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity technology that allows NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other and transfer information swiftly and efficiently with a single touch- whether to pay bills, exchange business cards, download coupons or share a document.
  • NFC transfers data through electro-magnetic radio fields, to enable communication between two devices. Both devices must contain NFC chips, as transactions executed within a very short distance.
  • NFC-enabled devices must be either physically touching or within a few centimetres from each other for data transfer to take place.
  • In 2004, consumer electronics companies, Nokia, Philips and Sony together set up the NFC Forum, which outlined the architecture for NFC technology to build powerful new consumer-driven products.
  • Nokia introduced the first NFC-enabled phone in 2007.

Other applications of NFC technology-

  • It is used in contactless banking cards to carry out money transactions or to generate contactless tickets for public transport.
  • Contactless cards and readers use NFC in various applications from securing networks and buildings to monitoring inventory and sales, preventing auto theft, and operating unmanned toll booths.
  • This technology is present in speakers, household appliances and other electronic devices that are controlled through smartphones.
  • It also has an application in healthcare, to monitor patient stats through NFC-enabled wristbands. NFC is used in wireless charging too.

How safe is this technology?

  • The technology is designed for an operation between devices within a few centimetres from each other. This makes it complex for attackers to record the communication between the devices in comparison to other wireless technologies which have a working distance of several metres.
  • The user of the NFC-enabled device decides by the touch gesture which entity the NFC communication should take place with, making it more complex for the attacker to get connected.
  • When compared to other wireless communication protocols, NFC communication has higher security level by default.
  • Since the receiving device reads data the instant one sends it, NFCs also decreases the chance of human error.

What is its position in compare to other wireless technologies?

  • The IrDa (Infrared) technology is a short range (a few metres) connection based on the exchange of data using infrared light where the two communication devices must be positioned within a line of sight. Nowadays, this technology is primarily used for remote control devices.
  • This technology was replaced by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections for larger data communication with computer devices.
  • However, for these technologies’ receiver devices require their own power supply due to the larger working distance.
  • So, the receiving device cannot be powered by the Radiofrequency (RF) field like in NFC.
  • Another effect of the larger working distance is the need for the user to configure their device and to pair them together for communication. Connection cannot be initiated by a simple touch gesture like in NFC.

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