Like Bluetooth or WiFi, NFC is a wireless communication technology that offers value as part of a wider product. For example Bluetooth is a technology that allows photos to be shared between two mobile phones but without the wider product (the two phones and the software that makes the process happen) Bluetooth has little customer value. Similarly when you scan your contactless credit card at a payment terminal although NFC facilitates the transaction the value also comes from the software that handles the transaction and debits your account.
In the year to September 2013 Visa contactless card payments totalled £461.6 million, rising from £96.7 million the year before. The reason for this fourfold growth is that NFC provides a simple one touch interaction that can improve existing customer experiences, in this case contactless payments.
When NFC is analysed it is typically hailed as a magic bullet or derided as an old technology about to be surpassed by Apple's iBeacon or whatever the latest marketing buzzword is; both sides miss the point. NFC is already highly integrated and useful in a wide range of global industries, many of which will be mentioned in more detail below, and because of that NFC is here to stay and a technology worth learning about.
The exact number of NFC smartphones or the percentage in circulation is not known however as Apple is currently the only smartphone manufacturer that doesn't support NFC a strong picture can be drawn. The Q1 2014 smartphones sales in Europe show 19% of devices sold supported iOS (the iPhone operating system) and the US (the iPhone's most significant market) had 38.9% iOS sales, down from 46.6% the previous year.
Across the 12 key global markets 21.1% of smartphone sales are iOS devices. Taking into account that the vast majority of new Android and Windows Phone devices support NFC the number of NFC smartphones is significant and rising fast. For a more in depth analysis click here.
The application of NFC in mobile and contactless payments such as Google Wallet and Visa payWave is the primary reason for NFC's continued growth. Mobile payments is the reason Google first introduced NFC to smartphones with the Nexus S in 2011 and NFC is now supported by nearly all Android and Windows Phone devices.
NFC is used in a vast range of products, the most prominent being out-of-home advertising, healthcare monitoring, asset tracking, events and marketing. There are three main reason these companies chose NFC.
i. NFC smartphones are cheap, widely available and reliable. They also include a wide range of other useful technologies such as WiFi, network connections, a touch screen interface and Bluetooth. See a complete list of NFC enabled phones and tablets.
ii. Software development is affordable in the form of mobile apps or using an NFC tag to link to a webpage.
iii. NFC tags or smartcards are inexpensive and available in a wide range of formats. Click to find out more about NFC tags.
NFC, BLE and QR codes are all different technologies which in turn have different properties, advantages and disadvantages based on the situation. For example if a project is price sensitive QR codes (which are printed and therefore essentially free) are a much better option than iBeacons at $25 each. Find out more about NFC and how it compares with iBeacon and QR codes by clicking the links below.
i. What Is The Difference Between iBeacon and NFC? - Click Here
ii. NFC Tags vs QR Codes - How to Make the Right Choice - Click Here
NFC creates a one touch, frictionless interaction whether that is tapping a travel card (such as the London Oyster card) to a train station entrance gate or scanning a loyalty card at a payment terminal. Calling that interaction NFC rather than simply 'tap your card here' can cause unnecessary confusion.
If your product does require the user to know what NFC is, such as someone tapping their smartphone again a poster to launch a YouTube clip, it is beneficial to offer clear instructions so the user knows what to do.
The internet is filled with a large amount of debate on when/if the iPhone will support NFC however even information from 'reliable' sources or multinational corporations should be treated with caution. It is expected NFC will be included in the iPhone eventually however until Apple makes the announcement no-one truly knows.
Contactless and mobile payments using NFC require the continued global upgrade of POS (point of sale) infrastructure in retailers. This change is already making significant progress (in the UK most major retailers support contactless NFC payments already) however like any change on this scale it takes time and will not happen overnight.
At RapidNFC we are always on the lookout for simple and effect hardware solutions that can work in tandem with NFC tags; the MicroNFCBoard is just that offering an integrated development platform that can be used with Arduino, Raspberry Pi, mdeb or PC/Mac
The MicroNFCBoard is a highly diverse NFC development platform that allows for NFC tag emulation, NFC tag reading, NFC tag writing, AppNearMe mode and Android Beam. The applications of this are extremely far reaching with the potential for use in mobile payment platforms, out-of-home advertising, events and asset tracking.
The MicroNFCBoard is for NFC platform developers with an understanding of electronics hardware and software programming. If you have no previous experience with such development we instead recommend you read and write NFC tags with a non-programmer friendly mobile application such as NFC TagWriter available on Android.
Although many NFC enabled boards/readers are available online the accompanying software is very limited. The MicroNFCBoard uses an onboard microcontroller that takes care of NFC related processing and can be controlled using the API.
MircoNFCBoard also offers the unique AppNearMe mode which makes it simple to add an external UI to your project by creating inputs and outputs that can be coded into an NFC-enabled Android app.
See the Kickstarter project page for more information and how you can back this project.
RapidNFC, Europe's leading online supplier of NFC tags and products, has provided NFC tags to enable Bluetooth tap pairing technology in the ceramic Bluetooth speaker - Josiah. Compatible with all NFC enabled mobile phones and tablets once tapped Josiah instantly pairs to the users NFC phone using unique data encoded to each NFC tag.
Designed by London design agency anythingby, Josiah is handcrafted using traditional ceramic manufacturing techniques in Stoke-on-Trent and offers wireless audio streaming, interactive touch surfaces as well as NFC pairing technology. Using a rechargeable battery Josiah can provide 10 hours of playing time and its Bluetooth receiver operates from a distance of up to 15 metres.
Phil Coote, RapidNFC's CEO commented, 'This is a fantastic example of how NFC can be effectively used in product design to enhance the user experience. The Josiah Bluetooth speaker is a truly unique product and something we are proud to be a part of.'
Yair Neuman, founder at anythingby also commented, 'Even though the technology is quite simple, there's something magical about NFC. No need to go through complicated settings and pairing steps. I love how the music starts as soon as you tap your phone on the speaker.'
RapidNFC has long offered the popular Express Delivery Custom Print NFC Tags. Minimum order quantities start from 25 tags and orders can be turned around in 3-5 business days but in some cases they there is a problem, they do not work on metal surfaces.
There are a variety of Custom Print On Metal NFC Tags options available however the minimum order quantities start from 500 units and turnaround time is 3 to 4 weeks. This limitation is caused by the ferrite backing layer that allows the NFC tag to work on metal surfaces as it is expensive to purchase and difficult to handle on a small scale.
With this in mind there are three options when ordering Custom Print On Metal NFC Tags and this guide will help you to pick the best option for you.
The Durable NFC Tag is a completed Custom Print On Metal NFC Tag that can be peeled off the backing sheet as a single piece. Designed for industrial and harsh environments the minimum order quantity starts at 100 however the price is expensive at £3.07 per unit. In higher volumes the price reduces significantly with 1000 pieces costing £1.23 per unit.
A cheaper option is to buy our white faced NTAG213 Round 29mm (On Metal NFC Tag) and then separately source your own printed stickers that can be laid over the top. There is no minimum order quantity and in-stock products can be dispatched the same or next working day.
The last option is to bite the bullet and buy Custom Print On Metal NFC Tags in larger quantities which will allow you to purchase the tags at a significantly reduced rate (typically £0.63 per unit for 2000). We hold Printed On Metal NFC Tags in stock which can be purchased as samples in advance to check the print quality and that the NFC tags meet your technical requirement.
RapidNFC, Europe's leading online supplier of NFC tags and products, has prepared and provided NFC enabled window stickers to JUST EAT, the UK's leading online takeaway service. The double sided window stickers with fully integrated and encoded NFC tags are being placed inside JUST EAT partner restaurant windows throughout the UK to provide one touch access to JUST EAT's downloadable phone App.
As part of the production process, the NFC tags have been encoded with unique data to provide regional tracking and performance data. Additionally, for the benefit of iPhone users, the windows stickers also contain a QR Code with matched regional encoding to the NFC tag.
Designed to attract passers-by and people waiting for takeaway collection, the window stickers encourage users to interact and download the JUST EAT App to speed-up and simplify their next takeaway order.
Phil Coote, RapidNFC's CEO commented, 'We are rapidly finding more and more brands using NFC to drive customer engagement. By using NFC enabled window stickers, JUST EAT and restaurant owners can provide quick, easy, one touch App downloads for their customers. It's a perfect example of how NFC is now being used to increase interaction.'
Chris Landon, Head of Trade Marketing at JUST EAT comments, 'We're very excited to be integrating this cutting edge technology into our business. Our mobile apps are a rapidly growing part of our business, so it's great to have another simple way for customers to discover it.'
So here we are again. The next iPhone may have NFC. I think we've heard this before.
The latest comments are from the analyst Morgan Stanley who mention 'We see growing evidence Apple will adopt NFC as a core part of its mobile payments strategy' and that NFC chip manufacturer NXP will supply the NFC chips'. Strong words indeed. This comes on the back of pro-NFC predictions by Ming Chi-Kuo, a KGI securities analyst with an historically accurate crystal ball on things Apple.
Anyone involved in the NFC industry wants Apple to come on board. There's no question it would give the eco-system a boost and it would make a full house of mobile phone vendors. In terms of percentage of phones in the market with NFC, it's not as significant as it used to be of course. However, the fact that every major smartphone would have NFC – regardless if the last player was Apple or not – is important enough in itself.
Obviously, most of the talk is about Apple using NFC for payments but we've said this so many times – NFC is so much more than that. The possibilities for non-payment related usage are so broad – asset tracking, ticketing, vouchers, pairing, etc - that NFC without payments is a reason enough. However, most of the rumours are centred on Apple's need to enter the mobile payments market and the use of NFC to help achieve that.
Unfortunately, as much as RapidNFC would love to jump on board, we are a little cautious. It's worth mentioning that some of the venture capital firms that purchased NXP (the predicted NFC chip supplier for the iPhone 6) from Phillips back in 2006 are currently selling over 17m shares they own in NXP. That's around $1bn. In short, at the same time as Morgan Stanley are predicting great things for NXP because of the NFC/Apple possibility – current major investors are selling shares. Clearly, there can be a number of reasons for this but the messages are getting a little mixed.
As far as other analyst predictions, RapidNFC has been around long enough to have heard these before. Most of them are along the lines of 'it's the right time' or 'it's about time' rather than anything solid.
So, what's our take on the current iPhone 6 NFC rumours ? Well, it’s pretty much as you were. That isn't to say that they are wrong of course and the iPhone could well have NFC. It's simply that until the spec sheets are printed, it is still really all just speculation.
RapidNFC launched our ScanStrength rating system almost two years ago to measure the relative scan distance performance of NFC tags and products. We created ScanStrength as a relative rating from 1 to 10 so that our customers could get an idea how one tag might compare to another. The highest performing tag has a rating of 10 and a zero would essentially mean touching the tag to get a response. All the other tags are then graded between the two points.
A large number of factors affect ScanStrength performance including antenna size, antenna design, NFC chip, whether the tag is on-metal and so on. Also, of course, is the performance and design of the phone itself. The ScanStrength test is a guideline developed so comparisons can be made.
When we launched ScanStrength, we were just starting to be manufature tags with the NTAG203 chip. The performance of the NTAG203 tended to be better than any previous NFC chips and most of the new NTAG203 tags had an obvious ScanStrength improvement - gaining 9 or 10 on the ScanStrength scale.
Since that point, ScanStrength performances have gradually increased as we have focused our product line to the best performing tags on the market. And now, with the launch of the new NTAG21x series of NFC chips, we've seen another significant jump in scan distances. In fact, increases have been so good that it's fair to say that tag sizes have stepped down by a level for the same performance. For example, the new 25mm tags perform as well as the old 29mm tags, the new 29mm tags as well as the old 38mm tags. It's quite a difference. Such is the difference now that one of our most popular tags - the NTAG203 29mm - which used to score a 9 on the ScanStrength scale now sits at 6. The tags are clearly just as good as they have always been - it's simply that the bar has been raised.
One effect of these performance increases is that tags are now available with great performance in smaller sizes. We've already mentioned the 25mm but the new NTAG213 22mm tags (currently available as a clear sticker but shortly as a white sticker) have an excellent performance for the size - as good as the old 25mm tags.
This is good news. NFC is a near field technology - it's one of it's core strengths. The requirement for a use/phone to be in proximity to a product/item/advert/etc is essential to the way NFC works and one of the great things about it. However, the ability to shrink the size of the tags and maintain a good user experience is very welcome news indeed.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is compatible with all Ultralight, NTAG203 and NTAG213 NFC chips. These NFC chips are found in the majority of NFC tags and products including Printed NFC Stickers, NFC Hang Tags and NFC Starter Packs.
NFC tags allow you to instantly update your phones settings or launch a web address by simply tapping your mobile phone. The Trigger App is free to download from Google Play and is currently the most popular NFC app but there are also a wide range of free and low cost alternatives. Specific to Samsung the TecTile app offers similar features to Trigger and Samsung offers the TecTile NFC tags as an option to use with it.
The original Samsung TecTile used a 1K Mifare NFC chip that is not compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S5 but is compatible with previous smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3. Samsung have therefore created an updated TecTile using a universally compatible NFC chip, the Samsung TecTile 2. In short, makes sure you buy the TecTile 2 !
New NFC products, comments, general views and other opinions about NFC tags, NFC phones and all things NFC !Tweets by @RapidNFC