Clearing the Air: Misconceptions About NFC

Though near-field communications (NFC) technology is widely discussed in the news today, consumers may be unaware of what the technology actually does. Much of the available literature is technical and the distinctions between its three prevailing forms – peer-to-peer, reader/writer and card emulation – aren’t immediately clear. Knowing a few important details eliminates misconceptions about the availability, security and applications of NFC.

Today, many think of mobile payments when they consider NFC, but this isn’t its only application. Practical uses for NFC extend beyond paying for coffee, gas or other common transactions. In fact, alternate uses such as the exchange of media, including songs and pictures, will be many mobile users’ first use of NFC.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Nexus by Samsung both feature S Beam, which allows users to share playlists, pictures and notes between devices. Even app developers, like Foursquare, have added NFC support that allows people to share information such as who they are with and their thoughts about a particular location.

Perhaps the largest misconception is security. The idea of a mobile wallet means integrating banks accounts and card numbers into a smartphone, which could potentially create inroads for unwanted access of personal information. However, credit card companies and smartphone manufacturers are creating effective ways to protect users. With multiple industry security standards in place, the most important protection may be that the proximity required for a NFC transaction is so small that a person looking to compromise information would have a hard time doing so without being noticed.

Despite these misconceptions, the potential applications are endless. Tapping a phone at a concert instead of scanning a ticket or sharing paperless business cards are only two ways NFC can transform people’s lives. As additional infrastructures fall into place, so too will the opportunities to use the technology to make daily tasks more convenient.