The distinct difference between RFID and NFC is the process by which the items are identified through radio waves. NFC is a sub-set of RFID technology but has grown in popularity over the years due to its ease of application. Near Field Communication is categorized as a High-Frequency RFID, typically operating at around 13.56 MHz.

NFC Introduction

Near Field Communication (NFC) is defined as short-range communication between compatible devices. There is at least one transmitting device and another device that receives the signal. They can be classified under Passive or Active devices.

Passive NFC Devices

Devices include tags, and other small transmitters, that can send information to other NFC devices without the need for a power source of their own. However, they don’t really process any information sent from other sources, and can’t connect to other passive components.  These often take the form of interactive signs on walls or advertisements.

Active NFC devices

Devices are able to both send and receive data, and can communicate with each other as well as with passive devices. Smartphones are by far the most common form of active NFC device. Public transport card readers and touch payment terminals are also good examples of the technology.

RFID and NFC Features & Types

Similar to Bluetooth or Wifi, NFC works on the principle of sending information over radio waves. However, NFC has a whole different standard for wireless transmission, requiring devices to comply with certain specifications in order to communicate with one another.

NFC’s data transmission frequency is about 13.56 MHz. Passive devices send data at 106, 212, or 424 kilobits per second (Kbps). Therefore, it is fast enough to cater to transfer of contact details, media and photos. There are typically 3 standards of operation for NFC.

Peer-to-peer NFC Mode

Peer-to-peer is the most common type. It allows two NFC enabled device to exchange various information with each other. Both devices switch between active and passive when sending and receiving data respectively.

Read/Write NFC Mode

Read/Write mode is a one-way transmission. The active device, when in range with a passive device, receives information from it.

Card Emulation RFID and NFC

The NFC device can function as a smart or contact-less credit card and make payments or tap into public transport systems.

RFID and NFC Application

Digital Wallet

Upon placing your smartphone within 4 inches of the Pay Pal or contactless reader. It will prompt your wallet and request payment. From there, you have to confirm the payment through signing in, or through your Touch ID function which is a key feature in the latest iPhone technology.

NFC Chips

NFC chips can be programmed with specific apps like Tasker to perform tasks when scanned. An example is when you put on hand on the desk and with a quick scan; you are able to set your phone to do specific tasks which include disabling or enabling GPS.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) consists of three components, an RFID tag or smart label, an RFID reader, and an antenna. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and antennas, which are used to transmit data to the RFID reader (also called an interrogator). The reader then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data. Information collected from the tags is then transferred through a communications interface to a host computer system, where the data can be stored in a database and analysed at a later time. This is done by digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels are captured by a reader through radio waves.

RFID is similar to barcoding in that data from a tag or label are captured by a device that stores the data in a database. However, RFID is capable of being read outside the line-of-sight whereas barcodes must be aligned with an optimal scanner. Should the scanner be faulty, RFID tags that provide name/photo or any other easily verifiable information, it can still be partially useful for access control.

RFID belongs to a group of technologies referred to as Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). AIDC technology leverages on automation and identifies objects, related data and transfers the data directly into computer systems without the need for any human intervention.

RFID Event Applications

Access Control RFID and NFC

Similar to NFC, certain areas require an expected level of security and access. From doors to parking lots or conferences, RFID access control tags restrict access to only those pre-authorized.

RFID and NFC Attendee tracking

With a large scale event or conference, it is difficult to manage and track your attendees. With an RFID attendee solution, it is possible to eliminate the need for registration lines at entrances, as well as be able to track each and every attendee, collecting as much information as possible. One example would be the organization of a marathon. With everyone running at different pace and time, it would be a tedious effort to keep track of all of them. Hence, RFID technology is embedded into their number tags and distributed to them before the race to ensure that they are able to track every runner.


Many kiosks use RFID to manage their resources and also how users interact with them. DVD rental kiosks make use of RFID DVD tags to make sure customers receive their selected rental movie.

Interactive marketing

RFID in marketing brings a certain level of interaction to campaigns. Whereas traditional advertising campaigns push a message onto the consumer, and interactive campaigns invite the consumer to engage with the brand.

Other Common RFID and NFC Applications

Logistics, supply chain Visibility, and inventory tracking

RFID can help manage logistics and the supply chain by reducing the chaos that comes with the manufacturing, shipping, and distribution environment. A popular way to increase efficiency is inventory tracking. Tracking an asset or an item is highly important especially if the item is being moved around a lot both locally and also globally.

Not only does this reduces the impact of lost or damaged goods, but also reduces the manpower neededs.

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