Opinion

Near field communication (NFC): Latest shockwave of the technological invasion

Today, our daily life is affected so much by the improvements which have taken place in computing technology. Computers had a huge impact when they were introduced into people’s daily life in 1960s, becoming more commonplace in 1970s, writes Vedat Coskun, co-author of Professional NFC Application Development for Android.

The spread of PCs throughout the world took a reasonable amount of time, allowing people to get used to them being around. Following the introduction of notebooks, which also took some time to become more common devices than PCs, the popularity of tablets and mobile phones spread very quickly. 

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These main shocks and aftershocks came along persistently on the device side, and behaved similarly on the communication side as well. Cable communication spread out slowly, but wireless communication comprising Bluetooth, Irda, Wi-Fi and GSM technologies continued to push the lines of defence.

Near field communication (NFC) is one emerging technology and ecosystem that promises to become an enabler of a big change in the industry, at both a technological and economic level.

Many applications we use daily – such as credit cards, car keys, tickets, health cards and hotel room access cards – could cease to exist as NFC-enabled mobile phones can provide all these functionalities. At the same time, a wide range of applications in health, education, and entertainment will be generated using smart posters - the most common usage area of NFC technology. 
 

Download an extract from Vedat Coskun's book:

Professional NFC Application Development for Android

Includes a 30% discount for Computer Weekly readers

Pairing Bluetooth devices, exchanging business cards, making new friends on online networks (Twitter, Facebook etc.) and gaming are also possible implementations of NFC technology. Easy data exchange between two NFC compatible devices provides the possibility for secure exchange of private and important data.

The NFC ecosystem is designed from the synergy of several technologies, including wireless communications, mobile devices, mobile applications and smart card technologies.

NFC operates between two devices in a short communication range via a touching paradigm. It requires NFC-touching of two NFC-compatible devices together over a distance of a few centimetres. NFC communication occurs between an NFC mobile device on one side and an NFC tag (a passive RFID tag), an NFC reader, or an NFC mobile device on the other side RFID is capable of accepting and transmitting beyond a few meters and has a wide range of uses. However, NFC is restricted for use in close proximity (up to a few centimetres) and also designed for secure data transfer. 

Currently, integration of NFC technology into mobile phones is considered a practical solution because almost everyone carries a mobile phone.

NFC-enabled services must reassure users and service providers that the transaction takes place in a protected environment. This protection is achieved by using a secure element (SE) that provides the security to support various business models. The SE is a combination of hardware, software, interfaces and protocols embedded in a mobile handset that enables secure storage and processing.

Up to now, various SE alternatives that have entered the market enable financial institutions and other companies to offer secure NFC-enabled services, empowering the NFC ecosystem takeoff. Mainly, SE options can be grouped as removable SEs, non-removable SEs, software-based SEs on dedicated hardware and other flexible SE systems.

Actually understanding the characteristics of these SEs plays a significant role for different stakeholders and pricing models in the NFC value chain. The dominating SE will have a strong position on which to build trusted services.

Once NFC was invented, mobile manufacturers started to embed NFC chips to mobile phones. The first NFC-enabled mobile phones were for research purposes, and academics and researchers used these to test NFC and identify new NFC uses. After some time, RIM, Windows Mobile and Android operating systems added NFC capabilities and mobile manufacturers started to offer NFC enabled mobile phones to users.

Since Android is currently the most used operating system, our book focuses on this to help novice programmers, whether or not they are familiar with basic Android programming, learn Android from scratch in a short time and start coding NFC applications.  

The enthusiastic, or at least curious programmers, are encouraged to learn NFC programming in Android OS, which will make them ready to create effective programs as they combine their creative and innovative capability with their competency in this lately emerging area.

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This was first published in August 2013

 

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