Discover smart city avenues with Near Field Communication (NFC)

by Amarbahadur Singh, on Aug 29, 2019 11:24:02 AM

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

As the internet proliferation increases and the cost of chips and hardware reduces to be within easy reach, new avenues are surfacing to make smart cities smarter. Rapid urbanization is also driving the need to find new solutions to persistent problems. Near Field Communication is coming up as a novel Information Communication Technology approach, which is giving rise to smart collaborative ecosystems, where security is stronger than contemporary chip and pin based protocols.

Discover smart city avenues with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology_2-1

What is Near Field Communication? How can it be used?

Near Field Communication or NFC is a communication protocol that allows two electronic devices to communicate with each other when brought within proximity of 4.0 to 5.0 cms.

NFC-powered Automatic Fare Collection or Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system is a most recent NFC use case. NFC-enabled smartphone devices are used just like smart cards that allow users to make tap-and-go payments or use them as ticketing media at AFC readers. It is one of the smartest modes of payments that allows mobile and contactless ticketing and payments.

The technology enables a user to purchase an e-ticket using his epurse or any other epayment mode such as credit card. This activates or refills the NFC tags in the smartphone device. When in close contact with a NFC ticket reader, the NFC tag in the smartphone shakes hands with the reader using radio frequency in a highly secure environment. It then deducts and transfers the fare amount of the e-ticket from its bucket to the reader’s bucket thus entitling the user with an authorized and safe journey.

The communication mode is very similar to Bluetooth, with which we all are familiar.

Difference between NFC and Bluetooth

Both set of technologies have their own use. Bluetooth is used over longer distances, typically 10.0 to 100.0 mtrs. NFC works only at very short distances. This inherent nuance of NFC very well serves use cases such as contactless payment and triggering smart alerts.

Bluetooth has higher speed as compared to NFC; that is to say NFC is slower in comparison. This aspect of NFC helps to transfer small data packets such as monetary transfer. The speed is just enough to make a small data transfer.

Bluetooth needs a powerful radio signal and more power. NFC uses less power from the device thus ‘being on’ at all times with miniscule power consumption. NFC cannot transfer data continuously thereby serving the design and its purpose of making monetary transactions or sending short signals to trigger a particular event.

Bluetooth requires many steps for a secure handshake. With NFC, a short distance communication between two valid devices is just enough to establish a safe and secure connection.

Advantages of NFC technology

NFC is highly effective where tap and go transactions are required OR a short contact is necessary to trigger the next action.

NFC helps in quick settlement of ticket fare thus doubling up smart phones as ticketing media. It displaces the requirement of smart cards, carrying around plastic money, and remembering security PINs. It thus accounts for faster and secure payments.

The technology effectively allows tap and go mechanism at predetermined points thus effectively monitoring the crowd in places such as metros, railways, airports, museums, parking lots, etc.

With an effective use of the NFC technology smart alerts can be sent to a central monitoring system to implement corrective and preventive measures.

Technology potential of the NFC technology

  • NFC can be teamed up with other contemporary technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) to run marketing campaigns. On pointing an NFC powered smartphone to pre-programmed images or brand logos in paper media or web media, the app plays an audio visual advertisement on the user’s smartphone highlighting the brand features.

  • Out of the house (OOH) advertisements at malls and stores can be optimized by engaging users with NFC enabled streaming content, which starts playing on the tap of the device.

  • FMCG products and branded ware with NFC-enabled logos can be used innovatively to connect with customers to seek feedback. It can also be used to strategically market new products which can be immediately added to the cart and purchased online.

  • NFC powered boarding passes can be used to facilitate onboarding at airports and other transit points. If teamed with GPRS, it can guide the user effectively to the boarding terminal by providing walking directions.

  • Ticket checkers or TTs on contemporary public transport systems can use NFC enabled reading devices to check the tickets.

  • NFC enabled visiting cards or business cards can quickly transfer the user’s credentials and contact details to that of a prospect at the tap of the smartphone.

  • Credit cards and debit cards can be converted into digital smartcards on the smartphone devices. On every use, the user can also get a digital receipt.

  • NFC readers at parking spaces can quickly deduct the fare from a digital smartcard on a smartphone thus saving the time and effort.

  • Interconnected water reservoirs can be auto-managed with NFC. As soon as, the water level in one reaches an alarming level, the NFC gate opens the connectors towards a downstream reservoir. When the collective water ecosystem reaches an optimal level, the excess water is used to increase the ground water level.

  • NFC powered garbage collection dumps can send smart alerts to central authorities in case of permitted level of carbon dioxide is exceeded. Similarly, in case the dump is not cleared and reaches a pre-determined level, the authorities are contacted for intervention.

Market share of the NFC technology

According to Allied Market Research, NFC is going to reach a mark of $24 billion by 2020. USA occupies the largest market share and tops the NFC market followed by Europe and then Asia Pacific. As the need for smart collaborative spaces increases and connected infrastructure flourishes, the NFC adoption scale will increase in a direct proportion. The growing trend of cashless transactions is further driving the embedding of NFC chips in smartphones and tablets. This phenomenon is bringing forth multitasking devices, which are further foraying into sectors such as retail, residential & commercial, automotive, healthcare, banking & finance, etc.

In summary

NFC is making headways in different sectors, predominantly transport related AFC systems, over-the-counter payments, contactless and mobile payments, and managing smart ecosystems. It not only helps in regulating footfall, making secure tap-and-go payments, and driving connected ecosystems but also facilitates the building of the infrastructure for a smart city. The tremendous potential of the NFC technology is also being put to good use in niche marketing and advertising fields in all sectors.

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Topics:Automated Fare Collection (AFC)Smart City

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