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Near Field Communication

A technology standard for very-short-range wireless connectivity that enables quick, secure two-way interactions among electronic devices.

NFC technology typically takes the form of a small chip embedded in a phone or a plastic card (like a credit card). The phone or card is simply placed on or very near a reader device (such as a pad on a debit card terminal, kiosk machine, or turnstile) - or another portable NFC device - to initiate a transaction.

NFC has a very short range (typically 1-2 inches). Therefore while it is called a "contactless" technology, the range is short enough that the phone or card usually must be "tapped" against the reader device for the transaction to occur reliably.

See: Contactless

NFC is used most often for financial transactions, as a replacement for swiping or inserting a plastic card. In this way it can function as a credit card, debit card, transit pass, or any type of stored-value card.

It can also be used for authentication, such as an employee ID to grant entry to buildings.

NFC can also be used to simplify secure setup of longer-range wireless protocols. In this scenario, touching two NFC devices together might pair them for Bluetooth, or authenticate a device for a Wi-Fi network. The fact that the two devices must (almost) touch acts as physical permission, replacing a password or other manual authentication normally required.

NFC chips embedded in plastic cards are usually single-purpose. However, modern NFC-enabled phones can support new uses by updating the software (such as downloading a new NFC-aware Java application). In this way a single NFC-enabled device can replace the functionality of a whole wallet, including debit and credit cards, cash, transit passes, store loyalty discount cards, and company identification.

NFC operates in the 13.56 MHz frequency range.

There is an industry standard for NFC that is supported by all leading mobile device manufacturers and is compatible with millions of contactless card systems already in use worldwide.

Although NFC technology is related to RFID, it is not the same. RFID tags can be read from several feet away; NFC cards cannot.

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