What do you mean NFC doesn’t stand for National Football Conference?!

microchipIn today’s fast paced, ever evolving world it’s easy for our eyes to gloss over from information overload. Even trying to keep up with the latest in technology can be a challenge for one person to manage alone. Our goal here at LinkUs is to sift through all the chaos and pick out those cool technological advances that can impact you directly and help simplify your life.

One such gem that is starting to appear on our smartphones and tablets is the Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. The part itself is not a new product, but its use on the consumer market can simplify how we interact with the world around us.

So where did it come from? How does it work? And how can it be beneficial to you? – We’re glad you asked.

WARNING: Short history lesson below:

During World War II, the participating militaries had issues detecting if enemy aircrafts and vehicles were located nearby. Luckily with the help of a Brit by the name of Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Witt, the radar was created to help alleviate the problem. The Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) system would work very similar to the way a bat uses sound navigate in the dark. By sending out pulses of radio waves with a directional antenna, the sound could reflect back from ships, aircrafts, and the ground. Thus giving the receiving antenna an accurate image of what was around it.

After the war, scientists and academics all over the world started looking for other ways to use and improve upon this brand new technology. This resulted in the creation of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) which became widely popular in the 1970’s to help businesses with supply chain management. Now companies were able to see what was in containers, boxes, and crates without actually opening them. This in turn led to faster loading and unloading times during product transport.

How it works:

Watching someone use the NFC function on their smartphone is like watching James Bond use one of his gadgets. As you may have noticed from recent smart phone television commercials, it is now possible to acquire information by simply “bumping” two similar phones back to back. Pairing one NFC chip with another chip, tag, or smart poster, it is now possible to acquire information quickly and wirelessly. Although the Near Field Communication (just as the name suggests) has a shorter range of communication compared to traditional RFID, it not any less impressive. The close range limitation provides a more secure connection between two devices, and prevents unwanted connections from being able to access private information.

Current uses and future possibilities:

Today NFC chips can be found in smartphones, tablets, security cards, and some credit cards. Businesses are able to use them to provide customers with a quicker and easier check out process. One example of this is the recent PayPal scanners installed by some retailers. Again, security is not an issue because of the close proximity that is needed for the NFC to work. Companies have also used NFC chips in their security cards which function as keys to enter the building. Some of which don’t even have to be removed from a wallet to work!

Luckily we won’t have to wait very long to see other cool uses for this relatively new technology. Many businesses and non-profits have already begun to test the waters for creative ways to make better experiences for their patrons. For example, museums have started implementing NFC chips within plaques and paintings. When scanned by tablets and smartphones, the user can then gather further information that might not be provided on the description plaque.

There is also a positive implication for environmentally friendly consumers! As there are already a few applications out there for smart phones to store frequent buyer and rewards cards, there may be similar advancements for credit cards in the future. Imagine eliminating the need for all those physical cards that bulk up your wallet. This would be perfect for transportation; making buying tickets for buses, trains, or taxis nearly instantaneous. Just swipe your smartphone across a scanner—and go.

If you’re a social technology buff like we are, and have used NFC chips, let us know your experience! We’d love to learn if there are other amazing uses out there that we haven’t listed.