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NFC Tags for New Business and Consumer Applications

Now that most smartphones are equipped with Near Field Communication technology, RFID providers are offering a wide variety of NFC transponders.
By Bob Violino
Mar 16, 2014

Near Field Communication is a short-range, high-frequency (13.56 MHz) RFID technology designed to enable the exchange of information between two NFC-enabled devices, such as mobile phones. In 2004, Nokia, Philips (now NXP Semiconductors) and Sony founded the NFC Forum to ensure interoperability among NFC devices and promote the technology for applications such as access control, cashless payments and transit ticketing. They also envisioned that consumers would someday use NFC-enabled mobile phones to share telephone numbers, photos and MP3 files.

Illustration: iStockphoto
But they did not anticipate that vineyards would use NFC-enabled smartphones to improve productivity (see Argentine Winery Harvests Crops With RFID). Or that shoppers would use their NFC phones in retail stores to learn about products and availability (see Bon-ton Brings NFC to Shoe Displays). Or the many other NFC-based business and consumer applications companies are adopting—from improving patient care (see Brigham and Women's Hospital Tests NFC RFID for Patient Bedsides) to marketing products (see The New 'It' Tool for Branding Products and Services). Other NFC applications include tracking assets and inspecting and maintaining equipment in industrial environments, such as aerospace, manufacturing, municipalities, and oil and gas, says Chris Gelowitz, president and CEO of InfoChip, which makes a line of NFC tags.

"We've certainly seen a lot of changes in the industry" in terms of how NFC is being used, says Victor Vega, director of RFID NFC solutions and marketing at NXP Semiconductors, which dominates the market for integrated circuits (ICs) that govern what NFC tags can do. "The industry started with transactions," Vega says. "Now there are all these different emerging applications."

Smartrac's line of BullsEye NFC inlays can be used for access control, product authentication, smart posters and ticketing.
Several factors have led to the emergence of new applications. One is that an NFC tag—which can function as a passive tag or a reader, depending on the application—is present in the majority of mobile smartphones. In addition, RFID providers have developed NFC readers for PCs, laptops and other devices that accept USB peripherals. "More and more consumers have NFC-enabled smartphones, so the infrastructure problem has been solved," Vega says. "With infrastructure so abundantly available, adoption is naturally much more well received as consumers now pull for the technology, rather than manufacturers pushing it into the marketplace."

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