What is NFC?
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres. The primary uses are contactless transactions and data exchange. NFC makes communication possible between an NFC device (like a smartphone) and an unpowered NFC chip called a "tag" that might be embedded in a poster, sticker or sign.
NFC standards cover communications protocols and data exchange formats and are based on existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) standards. These standards are defined by the NFC Forum which was founded in 2004 by Nokia, Philips and Sony and now has more than 160 members. The Forum also promotes NFC and certifies device compliance.
How does NFC work?
Basically, NFC facilitates wireless data transfer between two ‘devices’ when placed a few centimetres apart – swiped or “tapped”. This data exchange or information delivery can occur between any two NFC chips – they might both be installed within electronic devices (like two NFC enabled smartphones) or between a smartphone and an NFC enabled payment terminal (for contactless payment transactions). Increasingly it’s between a smartphone and smartposter – the user taps their phone to the NFC logo on a smartposter; behind that logo is the unpowered, passive NFC chip, more commonly referred to as the ‘tag’ or ‘touchpoint’. The smartphone then reads the data in the chip and it’s transferred to the phone in an instant.
So what can you use NFC for?
The beauty of NFC is its versatility. Keys, access cards, bus and train tickets, business cards, plastic loyalty cards and payment cards could easily disappear – replaced by your NFC enabled smartphone.
A major use of NFC will be the technology that underpins contactless payment systems. By tapping your NFC enabled phone on a contactless payment terminal in a shop, train station or coffee shop; the terminal is able to identify your account (and also your personal preferences, shopping habits and even your most frequently travelled route home) and instantly take the payment.
NFC can be used in social networking situations, such as sharing contacts, photos, videos or files and entering multiplayer mobile games.
The biggest use in the future will almost certainly be for 'proximity marketing'. So when a user “taps” the NFC tag on a smartposter it will automatically download information or content to the smartphone. This could open a browser or video; loyalty vouchers, location based offers, directions to nearest store, online booking system or whatever promotion is programmed into the NFC chip.
The clever thing too is that a smartphone can read an NFC tag through glass or acrylic so any business can stay ‘open’ 24-7 allowing consumers to download product information, a restaurant menu, voucher relating to a shop window display, call a cab, retrieve details of a property (in an estate agents window) and so on – any time of the day or night.
How is Enlighten powered?
The Enlighten illuminated smart poster system is powered by a single low voltage source. Plug and play just got incredibly dynamic!
How secure are mobile NFC transactions?
NFC-enabled mobile devices can store a payment application that is compatible with the millions of installed contactless payment readers. A phone can store information about multiple accounts, such as credit, debit and prepaid cards allowing users to select payment instruments more easily than they would from their wallets. Transactions are also secure, with the payment application usually protected by a password. And payment information on lost or stolen phones can be remotely “deactivated,” enabling a strong layer of security.
Because NFC operates only at very close ranges (1 to 4 cm), it is also difficult to compromise or interfere with the data being transferred using NFC signals. To read or “consume" the data the user needs to take a deliberate action to tap or swipe the tag with their smartphone. In fact a key driver underpinning the growth and take up of this technology is that by its nature NFC is ‘opt in’ unlike Bluetooth and location-based services, providing consumers with more control and countering any concerns regarding privacy.
The NFC Forum White Paper highlights the capabilities of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and its potential to transform our everyday lives. Download the pdf here:
NFC Forum White Paper: 1.1 Mb
How is NFC different to QR codes?
The overriding difference with a QR code, is that an ‘app’ needs to be installed onto a device like a camera enabled smartphone. It takes time to load the app and focus the camera to scan the code. In contrast an NFC enabled smartphone is ready to use instantly – just tap and go, there are no customer engagement barriers.
A QR Code is a 2D barcode matrix displayed typically as a black and white square graphic containing text (such as redeemable promotional voucher). They are usually applied to printed materials like business cards, product literature and posters. The QR barcode 'reader' will usually be a camera enabled smartphone with the QR ‘app’ installed. QR codes are very limited in their use – mainly they open a web browser. In contrast, NFC has a vast range of potential uses / applications and unlike QR Codes the NFC tag is readable / writeable.
How sustainable is Enlighten?
The LED light sheet is extremely energy efficient and meets the performance criteria to qualify for ECA’s (Enhanced Capital Allowances). ECAs are a straightforward way for a business to improve its cash flow through accelerated tax relief. The scheme encourages businesses to invest in energy saving plant or machinery specified in the Energy Technology List (managed by the Carbon Trust) to help reduce carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change. For further details please contact email@example.com
The material used in the manufacture of the back sheet is Foamalux Xtra, which utilises re-cycled PVC for its composite core.
Why is NFC not widely adopted yet?
The only thing that has held NFC back is the number of NFC enabled smartphones on the market and in ownership. But that is changing and the adoption of NFC technology is now rapidly gathering pace now that mobile manufacturers are driving the push for NFC. This progression is backed up with ABI Research predicting that the number of NFC-enabled mobile and consumer electronics devices shipped in 2014 will exceed 500 million. It’s worth noting that the smartphone manufacturer with the biggest worldwide market share – Samsung – is totally committed to NFC and has built NFC into all its current generation of smartphones.
Where does Signbox fit into this NFC revolution?
Signbox Ltd are widely recognised as the UK’s most forward-thinking sign manufacturer with a near 30-year track record of successful innovation. We recognised early on that the transformation of static signs and posters from inanimate displays into interactive NFC enabled media that communicate with NFC enabled smartphones will be one of the biggest emerging trends in customer engagement. So unsurprisingly Signbox has been at the vanguard of the NFC revolution with Enlighten, our eye-catching and energy efficient range of internal and external, back-lit NFC smartposters. This smartposter range is now complemented by the recent introduction of NFC signs and compact NFC enabled smartstickers.
Why do we not use the official NFC 'n-mark' on Enlighten products?
Signbox is passionate about design and quite simply, we believe the NFC graphic we have created is far more eye caching, intuitive and customer centric – in essence it’s a modern design for modern technology.
Language and symbology are critical to increasing consumer engagement and to work successfully it must be clear where to tap for a streamlined experience.