The NFC Forum Tag Types

By Robert R. Sabella

Part of NFC For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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
    • e-money
    • Electronic ID
    • Membership cards
    • e-tickets
    • 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)