What you can do with Smartphone NFC Technology and NFC Tags

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. Simplest example for this is the Smart Card issued by the Metro which make use of NFC. This card either has to be touched to the Card reader or you take it really close to the reader. The “Near” in NFC means roughly 3-4 cm. Coins issued by Metro, Smart Cards issued for parking also works on the same technology.

Google Nexus 5 NFC

NFC use in Delhi Metro





Now coming on to the Smartphones with NFC support and top use cases.

a) Both Smartphones having NFC: Extremely simple and intuitive to share content between two devices by tapping each other. The content could be Files, Video, and Settings etc. The smartphone can also act as a business card with one user filling the information in it and then transfer it to other user by tapping the smartphone.  Using NFC, Bluetooth pairing can happen and data gets transferred through Bluetooth once initial tap is done indicating the data transfer.

b) NFC based mobile payments:  So far this is considered to be biggest use for NFC enabled smartphones. In this case Retailer will have a NFC reader attached to the billing system, User will just have to tap the reader with the NFC enabled Smartphone and the due amount will be automatically deducted from your debit/card linked with Mobile payment application.  One example of such solution is Google wallet ( Mobile transactions require Secure element which can be inbuilt in the phone like Samsung Galaxy or can be used using SD Card/SIM/External-device. Google Android 4.4 supports the secured NFC based based transactions using Host Card Emulation (HCE).

c) Ticketing: Instead of the Smart Cards, Smartphones with NFC can be used for ticketing. This can also be used instead of boarding passes. Both these options will reduce the cost as well as are environment friendly.

NFC Tags:

NFC Smart Tags

NFC tags are small inexpensive coin sized objects which can communicate with the NFC enabled Devices. There are lot of utilities of NFC tags, Some of them are:-

a) Smartphone task automation:  You can buy NFC tag and using NFC application in your phone you can configure the tag to perform certain operations on your phone. e.g. If before going to bed, you want your smartphone to set an alarm, a specific ringtone or vibration mode and  turn off Mobile data. To achieve this you bring the tag closer to your device and then using the application you can add these tasks in the tag. After this if you tap your device to the tag, it will perform the three tasks you specified it to do. You can also configure it to revert this configuration when you tap it again in the morning.

b)NFC Tags in Banners: Advertisers can embed this tag in the banners with the information which they want to distribute like offers, coupons, brand interaction, new product launches. Once user tap the phone on the banner where NFC symbol is present, Information will be transferred to the user device.  Brands can also use tags for getting the feedback from the user using NFC.

c) NFC tags in parking lots:  Every parking lot can have tag attached to it. After parking the car, user taps the phone on the tag and information related to parking lot number, map and other information is transferred to the user device.  This way user can find the parking lot later easily.

How NFC tags differ from QR Code:  QR code requires the code to be scanned by the QR application on the device using the device camera for reading text or web-link. NFC tags use the wireless to transfer rich information beyond web-links and text and does not require any specific application in most cases. NFC tags can also store the time and location of each tap and this information can be used later by advertisers etc to evaluate the user response to campaigns whereas QR codes have no storage.

Which devices have NFC:  Unfortunately Apple devices do not have NFC support. Most of the medium to high-end devices from Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony have this support. Applications for NFC can be downloaded from online stores (Google/Android Play store, Nokia store etc.)

More information:  NFC end-points communicate using the wireless communication and NFC forum ( has defined the NDEF(NFC Data Exchange Format) standard for NFC.

NFC tags/stickers contain a microchip and an aluminum antenna and are capable of storing information and transferring it to NFC devices. Typical storage of NFC tags is from 96 Bytes to 4096 Bytes. Tags can be of Read only, Read/Write mode. NFC microchips are made by Semiconductor companies like Broadcom and Texas instruments. Intel is putting NFC chips into laptops.

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6 thoughts on “What you can do with Smartphone NFC Technology and NFC Tags

  1. Asim Garg Reply

    You explain concepts very well Aslam…all your blogs are interesting to read

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