The Technology of Near Field Communication
In the following post, I want to explore at a very introductory level the technology of Near Field Communication (NFC) and then very briefly share my thoughts on some of its possible applications in the contexts of academia and research environments — at least how I would be interested in exploring its uses. My thoughts on this topic are only preliminary but I do hope in the coming blog entries to go into further details about NFC and its uses. Here, all that I want to do so is simply define NFC technology and demonstrate its viability in areas of communication and connectivity — at least how I would find it interesting.
First, what is NFC? NFC or Near Field Communication is a new and specific kind of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in certain devices (only a handful of smartphones at the moment) that enable the sending and receiving of short-range radio frequency waves to and from other NFC enabled devices and/or “tags” — a tag is a sticker or a piece of PVC plastic that contains an embedded unpowered chip that emits a short-range radio frequency wave when in the proximity of a NFC enabled device. The connection established permits communication between the devices and potentially the secure exchange of any type of information or directives.
Then NFC technology permits a very distinct perimeter type of communication and connectivity. It can be established between your smartphone and a tag (e.g., exchanging directives to change profile settings, activate security measures, activate office alarms, files, contact information) and/or with another NFC powered smartphone (e.g., exchanging weblinks, files, contact information). Unlike WIFI or Bluetooth connections, NFC is instant and does not require any setup, but however is significantly slower with speeds ranging between 106-414 kbps.[i] It’s short range can depending on your point of view be a limitation (e.g., office) or a strength (e.g., credit cards)
There are many features possible and to make sense of them I like to think of the NFC features in three groups: those that are passive, active and security based. The passive features are those that allow your smartphone or potentially a smartwatch to simply receive information from another NFC device or a tag (e.g., reminder, news, weblink from a smartposter). The active features are the two way dynamic exchanges (e.g., customize settings on the way in or out of the office). The security features are those that turn your smartphone or potentially again a smartwatch into a secure wireless id (e.g. access cards, security ID cards and credit or banking cards).
It’s the first two, the passive and active, uses that I think can be particularly useful for enabling communication and connectivity in the seminar room and/or research environment(s). Consider, apart from the capacity to switch settings to vibrate or silence during keynote presentations or lectures, NFC technology may perhaps be the key to managing a completely digital workspace. This means taking a step towards reducing our environmental footprint by eliminating the unnecessary production of paper and increasing the interconnectivity between our different portable and office devices. In this sense, NFC could also become a way to submit/receive graded assignments, exams, seminar’s syllabus, articles, blogs and even course notes and other audio/video/materials.
NFC could also be the key link in integrating the course’s content with different contexts and websites online seamlessly and wirelessly for the students for each distinct class/seminar. At conferences, tags could also prove useful in giving material such as articles, information on books for purchase, and other contacts such as publishers, agents, artists and list of attendees. It can be both an opportunity to disseminate information and promotional instrument.
NFC could also prove useful as I alluded earlier as a tool for integrating our data unto other devices. NFC technology could revolutionize the way we interact with other electronic devices facilitating data transfer thus integrating the current smartphone market into the tablet market, smartwatch market and big screen/projector markets. The idea behind this integration is the more meaningful integration of our physical and digital selves together in a single space. In the world of academia and secretariats, it could prove useful between students and faculty staff to promote and disseminate tailored news to students, deadlines, networking opportunities, conference and other events. The important aspect of NFC is that it is customizable not only from the disseminator but also from the consumer vantage point.
In our world, the ability to triangulate information is a growing necessity and NFC technology can play a vital role in integrating our diverse physical and digital selves in increasing our capability of meeting those demands. In future posts, I will share my experiences on setting up my office with NFC technology and more detail on its passive features.