Near Field Communication (NFC)

During a session at the recently concluded mobiFEST 2010 event, a participant spent some time lamenting how our system was not up-to-date. One of the things he devoted time to was his opinion that there is a dearth of Near Field Communications (NFC) mobile phones in the country while the rest of the world has moved on.

I found that amusing (and you will find out why shortly), but never got to respond to his “complaint”. For starters, what is NFC?

Near Field Communication (NFC) 1

Near Field Communication or NFC, is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology which enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 centimeter (around 4 inches) distance. This makes NFC specifically suitable for mobile payment, identification and other related services.

Basically NFC turns a mobile phone into a contactless card and electronic reader, and allows the phone to communicate and exchange information with other NFC devices.

With all the excitement pushed by the gentleman, the reality is that there is a very limited choice of devices on the market at the moment. There are no more than a handful of NFC phones available. Nokia has announced that from 2011 their new smartphones will be NFC-enabled.

In the meantime, NFC on mobiles is still almost entirely on trial. For example, perhaps the most easily obtainable NFC handset is the Nokia 6212 Classic (pictured in this article), but even that is no longer in production. While some other manufacturers have NFC devices, they are either for development or trial purposes.

This was what made the gentleman’s comments amusing. There is no NFC revolution going on anywhere yet. Even if he lived in North America or Europe and wanted to purchase an NFC phone now, he would be hard pressed to find one.

Do you know of any NFC devices in circulation? Have you used any? Have any useful information about NFC? Tell us about it.

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7 thoughts on “Near Field Communication (NFC)”

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  2. I always try to keep in touch with the latest in phone and computer technology, yet this is the first I’m hearing of NFC. Even gsmarena.com has not mentioned it before, nor is it included in their phone filter.

  3. Actually surprised one thinks NFC is a popular (market-wise) technology. Hopefully the fella had read this now and is better educated – unless he was trying to impress with his somewhat broad knowledge 🙂

  4. I think that young man is one of those that like to criticize the system using examples they are not conversant with.

    NFC’s prospect is huge from electronic ticketing, mobile payment, identification, passes, key systems, authentication, m commerce etc. NFC is undergoing trials in some countries (mainly in Europe). Maybe because of the sensitive nature of issues the NFC devices may handle is making everyone cautious. I think we’d better. Unresolved issues remain. For example, when used for authentication purposes (eg gate pass, financial transactions etc) what happens when the phone/device is lost or stolen? That’s a major loose end. Others include data modification, eavesdropping, hacking, identity theft etc.

    These unresolved issues are yet to make NFC phones a hit. Evidence? the dearth of devices. Nokia has about 4 (3220, 6131, 6212, 6213), Samsung 3 (S5230, X700, D500E), Sagem 1 (my700X contactless), LG 1(600V) while there are a few others out there like Motorola L7, Benq. There may be more in the future, like Yomi pointed out.But with so many unresolved issues, I don’t foresee much anticipation in the mobile community about NFC mobiles in the very near future, at least in Nigeria. But things are known to change very rapidly in info tech, so don’t quote me after 3 years 😉

    For any society to effectively implement such a revolutionary product, its security detection and response apparatus must be top notch, infrastructure robust, have a willing innovative private sector, a good and efficient settlement system and excellent R&D to deal with threats and exploit opportunities quickly and decisively. Need I add a good legal system to put the likes of ‘Yahoo’ and ‘Freedom’ boys behind bars (where they belong).

    Nigeria’s system will need more work.

  5. Only application of NFC I know in full commercial use (as opposed to trials) is the Oyster Card system for London Transport. Basically they operate as a micro-payment card that you load funds onto using your debit/credit card at a vending machine. You can also load the card at a vendor’s till (railway stations, dept stores, some corner shops etc) where they have a connected card writer (using NFC of course) load the funds after you pay (by cash/bank card).

    The funds are only valid for paying London Transport fares (bus, tube, train, ferry) and you pay by holding the card close to the NFC reader mounted at the point of embarkation (bus door, railway station turnstile) and the appropriate fare is deducted.

    This has been in operation for a while (2007? 2008?) and considering they’re now being integrated with bank (debit) cards the majority of (security) issues must have been dealt with because the regulation in the financial services industry wouldn’t allow it otherwise (think PCI, SOX etc). As for lost or stolen NFC devices, the dangers are just as bad as other electronic means of authentication or access control that have only single factor authentication, for example, office ID/access cards (which actually share similar technology).

  6. Oops, my bad! Oyster began in 2003. Was integration of the Barclaycard Visa and Oyster that began 2007.

    Also, I just realized that I didn’t relate NFC directly to inclusion of the technology in phones. Seemed that all that needed to be said about that had already been covered by the other posts. This IS MobilityNigeria after all 😉

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