NFC technology: what is it for?

At the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the main showcase of what is to come in the world of smartphones and tablets, there were two words that were repeated ad nauseam: NFC technology. What do they mean?

NFC (Near Field Communication) technology is a short-range wireless communication system that is being integrated into smartphones and tablets.

The idea is that two devices can communicate with each other comfortably and effectively.

It is not intended to transfer large files but to identify or validate another device. Its virtue would be to save time and effort by pairing two devices.

An example: connect our mobile to the hands-free of the car. To achieve this without NFC we have to activate the Bluetooth of the phone, track devices, connect with them, enter the key … With NFC it would be as simple as sliding the mobile on the hands-free.

As a sign of the interest of manufacturers in NFC technology, suffice it to say that one of the giants of the sector, Samsung, has equipped with NFC all its smartphones (even those of low range). Pay with your mobile? Not yet

Until last year, the industry seemed determined that the only utility of NFC technology was to pay with the mobile.

Technically it has been possible for a long time: if our smartphone has been previously linked to a credit card, just slide it on a receiver to pay. But except in some places like Japan, this is a very minority or non-existent practice. Why?

It is not clear what advantages paying via NFC offers over paying with a credit card. If in the end it is going to be the same, why spend all the money it costs to install the right receivers?

In order to pay with the mobile phone safely, it is necessary that the SIM card includes one more function on its chip. Conclusion: not only banks and companies such as Visa or Mastercard should be involved, but also mobile operators. Too many variables: the equation will take a while to resolve.           So what is it for?To pay: today it is a fiasco. At the Mobile World Congress all the manufacturers talked about it (and its possibilities for payment in parking meters or on public transport), but the demonstrations were limited to a soft drink machine installed by Samsung that was anecdotal.To listen to music: Sony has merit for having turned around NFC and raised it as a way to link its smartphones (although only high-end ones are prepared) with its speakers and wireless headphones. You play the song of your choice on your smartphone (or tablet), bring it closer to the speaker or headphones and start playing. To transfer photos: with two phones that have NFC it is possible to send a photo from one to another just by bringing them closer (today it must be done with Bluetooth -more cumbersome- or through the Internet -WhatsApp, email …-).To use your TV as a screen of your mobile: Sony has developed televisions with NFC controls to see on their screens the videos that you have saved on your mobile. To prove your identity: during the Mobile World Congress it was possible to accredit the entrance by means of a mobile phone equipped with NFC. It was enough to slide the phone over a receiver that recognized your identity. Technically it would be the same when accredited anywhere else (as long as the environment was prepared). Conclusions: more future than present

1) Everyone says that NFC technology is the future, but only Sony has had the imagination and decision to develop picture and sound products in which it works. Does it hit her? All have a Bluetooth connection, so the range is only 10 meters. The advantage of NFC is to save the steps of a Bluetooth connection (device tracking, password …).

2) Today, NFC technology has a lot to improve. In theory, zooming in on your mobile and swiping it is all the user needs to do to connect it with another device. In practice, these connections fail more than a fairground shotgun.

Toni Recio, one of the developers present at the Mobile World Congress, told us:

“It should be the technology that unifies all the interconnections: chargers, music, synchronization, photos… The problem is that it still doesn’t work perfectly. For a speaker or a TV to recognize the smartphone you have to try several times and change position until you end up catching the necessary angle.”

3) It would certainly be possible to pay via NFC or be credited in all sorts of situations, but the awkward question is: why bother implementing this? What are the advantages of paying with a card or showing your ID? Saving a few seconds doesn’t seem like enough of an argument.

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