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What is NFC?

Near field communication (NFC) is a protocol that allows two devices to communicate wirelessly via radio signal when in close proximity with one another, approximately 4 inches or less. It’s a subset of radio-frequency identification (RFID) and is similar to Bluetooth and WiFi.

An NFC tag is a RFID transponder—a small chip connected to an antenna. The chip has a unique ID, used to uniquely pair an NFC tag with an object, and rewritable memory. The antenna allows the chip to interact with an NFC scanner, such as a smartphone. An NFC tag is passive, meaning it doesn’t have a power source. Instead, it draws power from the device that reads it. When the reading device comes into proximity, it energizes the NFC tag and transfers data via radio waves broadcasting at 13.56 MHz.

Some NFC tags are incorporated right into a device’s circuitry, and most operating systems support native NFC functionality, including Windows, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. But the most common form is a small sticker containing the circuit and antenna. Because it doesn’t need a power supply, the tag can remain in service for years and continue to function without error.

These tags can store a wide variety of information, such as web addresses, contact details, or links to applications. It’s a simple way to push information to a device, replacing the need for bar or QR codes.

To establish a connection between NFC-enabled devices, touch the two together. For example, touching the backs of two NFC-equipped smartphones together would establish a connection and allow content to flow back and forth between the two.