NFC For Dummies Cheat Sheet
NFC is an amazing technology that you can use to perform a wide range of tasks — everything from making a purchase to tracking health issues. Use this cheat sheet to help you access the most commonly needed reminders for making your NFC experience fast and easy.
How to Turn On NFC on Your Phone
You can’t use NFC on your smartphone until you turn the support on (unless it’s an Apple smartphone whose support is always on, but in that case, you use NFC only for payments in the Apple operating environment). On the plus side, this requirement means that you can’t accidentally start an NFC conversation (even though that’s already difficult, given the close proximity needed to have a conversation).
However, you must take specific action to turn the support on before you can use NFC to perform tasks. In general, you need to perform these generic steps to turn on the support:
Access the settings for your smartphone.
Locate the communication settings.
Change the NFC setting so that it reads as on instead of off.
Some smartphones, such as the Windows Phone, include separate settings for each NFC activity, such as sharing information and paying for products. You must turn on each activity separately.
Exit the settings.
Of course, your smartphone may require a little more interaction than these generic steps provide. Here are a few of the more common smartphone sites where you can find specific instructions for your phone:
The NFC Operating Modes
The operating mode determines the specific kind of task that NFC is performing at any given time. The devices interacting at the time allow for certain operating modes. Here’s a quick overview of the NFC operating modes:
- Card emulation mode: This mode places the NFC device in passive communication mode. The device acts precisely the same as a smart card. Your NFC-enabled device can emulate more than one smart card, and the smart card support can include more than one form of identification.
- Reader/writer mode: When working in reader/writer mode, most NFC devices act as readers. The NFC device works in active mode to read the content of a tag. When it detects two or more tags, it relies on an anticollision algorithm to select just one tag. The NFC device must also detect the tag type (ISO/IEC 14443 A/B or FeliCa) and interact with it appropriately.
An NFC device can also write data to the tag. To write data to a tag, you must have a tag writer application, such as TagWriter, installed on your device.
- Peer-to-peer mode: Two powered devices can engage in peer-to-peer mode, which is NFC specific. This mode lets the two devices converse as though networked together. During the initial communication, the two devices determine the communication parameters, such as data block size. The maximum data block size is 256 bytes.
In many cases, peer-to-peer mode is used for pairing of the devices to use some other means of transferring the actual data, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The use of NFC for pairing greatly reduces the work required to pair two devices, such as a smartphone and Bluetooth wireless speakers.
The NFC Forum Tag Types
Tags let you perform various kinds of information-related tasks. For example, you can use a tag to store information on various topics at a kiosk. Each tag has specific functionality that lets you use the tag for particular tasks. NFC currently works with the following four tag types:
- Type 1: The NFC Type 1 tag is the simplest of the offerings. It’s also the slowest chip, but because of the simplicity it offers, you can stuff more memory on this chip. Because these tags are simple, they also tend to be inexpensive, but they can lack functionality you might need for some applications. You typically see these tags used for the following types of applications:
- One time provisioning
- Read-only applications
- Business cards
- Pairing devices with Bluetooth
- Reading a specific tag when more than one tag is present
- Type 2: The Type 2 tag tends to be the most popular offering because it provides just enough functionality at the right price to meet a wide range of needs. The Type 2 tag is also faster than the Type 1 tag, so you can rely on it for applications in which a user expects nearly instant communication. You typically see these tags used for the following types of applications:
- Low-value transactions
- Day transit passes
- Event tickets
- URL redirects
- Type 3: The Type 3 tag relies on a different standard than the other tags in this group. The Sony FeliCa tag is a Japanese innovation and sees wide use in Asia. This is a sophisticated tag that provides a wide range of functionality but also comes with a relatively high price tag. You typically see these tags used for the following types of applications:
- Transit tickets
- Electronic ID
- Membership cards
- Health care devices
- Home electronics
- Type 4: The Type 4 tag offers the most flexibility and memory of all the tags. It comes with a moderate to high price tag, depending on the amount of memory you get. The most important reason to get this tag is security: It offers the functionality needed to perform true authentication. In addition, this is the only tag that provides support for ISO 7816 security. It also allows for self-modification of NDEF content. Given the extra capability that this tag provides, you typically see it used for transit ticket applications.
- Type 5: The new Type 5 tag offers support for the ISO/IEC 15693 specification. In this case, the NFC Forum chose to support Active Communication mode, which allows overall data transfer performance similar to the RF technologies already supported by NFC Forum. The reading distance is precisely the same as that of other NFC technologies. Because the standard mandates support for this mode, an NFC-enabled device that supports the Type 5 tag can read ISO/IEC 15693 tags. You typically see these tags used for the following types of applications:
- Library books, products, and packaging
- Ticketing (such as ski passes)
- Health care (medication packaging)
How to Write an NFC Tag
Knowing how to write data to tags is important if you want to create custom applications of your own. To write data to a tag, you must have a tag writer application, such as TagWriter, installed on your device. After the application starts, you typically use steps like these to write data to a tag:
Select an encoding type.
The encoding type determines the kind of data that the tag contains. Here are some typical encoding types:
Short Message Service (SMS)
Define a bookmark to hold the data.
Create the data.
Choose the encoding options, which can include the following:
Locking the tag to prevent further changes
Writing multiple tags using the same data
Confirming the overwriting of existing tag data
Tap the tag to encode it.
The process typically takes a few seconds, so you must leave the device in place until the application tells you that encoding is complete.
NFC Quick Links
NFC is a growing technology. It changes almost daily to meet new needs and answer new questions. With this in mind, you need to know where to find the latest insights into how NFC is changing. Using these 11 resources to keep your NFC information updated will make you stand out from everyone else.
- NFC Bootcamp: The information on NFC Bootcamp is constantly updated. Not only can you get additional NFC training, you can also find lots of great articles on the blog. Make sure that you also keep up with the latest NFCBootcamp resources, videos, press releases, and events. Make NFC Bootcamp the first place you visit when you need to know more.
- NFC Forum: The NFC Forum is the first place you should go for insights into everything regarding NFC standards and applications.
- Smart Card Alliance: The Smart Card Alliance lets you easily keep up with the latest developments in smart card technology. In fact, the section devoted to white papers and case studies could provide ideas for smart card uses for your organization.
- Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA): This is the place to go if you need to learn more about mobile standards. The top-level topics include issues such as Network 2020 (the future of mobile computing); personal data; digital commerce; the mobile economy; and using mobile for development.
- NFC World: This site provides you with a major source of news for NFC-related product topics (with other sorts of news mixed in).
- NFC Times: Whereas NFC World provides quite a lot of product news, this site is more oriented toward technology news. You also find feature-length articles, blogs, and event listings.
- NearFieldCommunication.org: Every technology requires an educational site, and this site is it for NFC. The goal of this site is to educate everyone about the benefits of using NFC in various ways to meet specific goals.
- Pymnts.com: The emphasis of this site is on telling you how people are paying for things today and how they’ll pay for them in the future. How to make payments wouldn’t seem to require much space, but this site tells you that the whole process involves more than meets the eye.
- EverydayNFC: This site is essentially a blog that provides you with helpful insights into everything NFC. The articles touch on various NFC topics that express an informed opinion on the direction that NFC is taking.
- Gartner: Gartner is known for the trend-based research it provides. You find the results of Gartner research everywhere — even outside the IT community — and Gartner offers NFC-specific research right on its site.
- IHS Technology: IHS Technology is a global information company that provides most of its resources as a paid subscription. It offers global market, industry, and technical expertise to help people make important business decisions. The NFC-related materials help you decide between various products and technologies that emphasize the way you do business.