Near Field Communication vs Bluetooth

One of the responses I get when I try to explain to people what near field communication is usually “Please stop boring me… I have guests.” One of the other responses is usually “Oh, you mean like my Bluetooth.” This used to annoy me in the same way retail workers get annoyed because you don’t understand their rewards program. Then I had to remind myself of the very words I use to remind retail employees that their job is to help me understand. People don’t do what I do everyday. Most people have never heard of near field communication and so now I usually start the explanation with asking my poor unsuspecting soon-to-be-bored victim to think of his or her Bluetooth. 

Near field communication is a technology operating on a high frequency which allows for two enabled devices to transfer or exchange information. This transfer of information can only take place if the two devices are within a few centimeters of one another. Otherwise, the antenna cannot reach the reader within the phone. 

Bluetooth can do a lot of the things near field communication can do, but lacks the commercial appeal due to the fact that Bluetooth communicates between devices at a maximum range of 10 meters. While this is nice if you want to keep your earpiece in and talk while doing work around the house or writing down information, it does present a security risk. Basically, though near field communication is made to work within a few centimeters of the reader (phone) most people who have used it to transfer information, especially to another person’s phone, have done so by touching phones, as this is a rather intuitive gesture. It makes sense. Also, having to do this keeps the transfer secure, as it is something people have to take an active role in, ensuring there are no unwanted information transfers. 

There has also been talk of NFC meeting the same fate as Bluetooth technology, meaning that it will be extremely popular for a short time and then be relegated to specific niche uses. While I can certainly understand this concern (Bluetooth was supposed to fundamentally change how we do things) I don’t agree with it. The commercial applications of Bluetooth were quickly shown to be fool’s gold, whereas NFC has been in use for years in Japan with use increasing every year as people realize the benefits of it.

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