Near Field Communication (NFC) is short-range wireless communication that allows devices to exchange data over a distance of 10 centimeters. It is a popular technology in mobile devices, especially phones and tablets.
NFC tags are special types of chips that can be read by NFC-enabled devices. They are regulated by the NFC Forum, an international standards body. This all-inclusive guide explains everything you need to know about NFC tags.
What is an NFC Tag?
NFC is one of the most widely used wireless technologies in the world. It has been adopted by major corporations and industries, including Google, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft.
NFC technology uses a concept called “Near Field Communication.” This allows two devices to communicate with each other when they are close together, typically within 10 centimeters.
An NFC tag has several components, including:
- An NFC Microchip. This is the brain of the NFC tag. It contains information that can be read by an NFC-enabled device. The tag has a memory where you can store data, such as your website URL or contact information.
- An Antenna. This is the link between an NFC reader and the NFC tag. It sends and receives radio waves that carry data between the NFC device and the tag.
- Substrate. The substrate is the base material of the NFC tag. It protects the microchip and antenna from damage.
NFC tags come in different shapes and sizes. Some come as small as a grain of rice, while others are as large as a credit card. The size and shape of the tag will depend on its intended use. Some examples include:
- NFC Cards
- NFC Wristbands
- NFC Keyfobs
- NFC RFID Inlays
They can even be modified further to suit your needs & desires. For example, you can have NFC RFID wood cards with unmatched aesthetic appeal!
How Does an NFC Tag Work?
It uses inductive coupling to create a magnetic field that can transmit data between the two devices. But what exactly is inductive coupling?
Inductive coupling is a method of transmitting energy and information using magnetic fields. It works by creating a magnetic field around a conductor.
When another conductor is brought close to the first one, the magnetic field induces a current in the second conductor. This current can be used to power a device or to transmit information. NFC uses this same principle to communicate between devices.
The NFC tag has a coil of wire that creates a magnetic field. When an NFC-enabled device is brought close to the tag, the device’s antenna picks up the magnetic field and uses it to power the device.
The device can then read the information stored on the tag. This process happens in a fraction of a second and requires no special hardware or software.
What Data is on NFC Tag?
NFC tags store different types of data, depending on their type and capacity. Types of data that can be stored on an NFC tag include:
- Text. You can store text files on an NFC tag. This is the most common type of data stored on an NFC tag.
- URL. When the tag is read by an NFC-enabled device, the device will open the URL in a web browser.
- Contact Information. You can store your contact information on an NFC tag. This includes your name, phone number, email address, and website URL.
- Application Data. You can store data for an application on an NFC tag. For example, you can store a Wi-Fi password or a task list.
You must note that NFC data is stored in a standardized format. This format is called NDEF (NFC Data Exchange Format). NDEF is a special format based on the ISO/IEC 18092 smart card standard.
This format enables interoperability between devices and tags. It also ensures that the data stored on the tag can be read by any NFC-enabled device.
The NDEF format has three parts:
- A record header. The record header contains information about the type of data stored in the record.
- A payload. The payload is the actual data stored in the record.
- A terminator. The terminator indicates the end of the NDEF message.
This format is critical for convenience, efficiency, and security. When an NFC tag uses this format, it can be read by any NFC-enabled device from any manufacturer in the world. This way, you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues.
There are five main types of NFC tags:
- Type 1 NFC Tags
Type 1 tags are the most common type of NFC tag. They are based on the ISO/IEC 14443 standard, the same standard used by proximity cards, credit cards, and smartcards.
Type 1 tags are read-only or read/write. This means that you can write and write data on them without any problem. However, they lack data collision protection, restricting data transmission to a single tag at a time.
Additionally, these tags have a memory of 96 bytes and can be written in 10,000 cycles. It has a transmission speed of106 kbit/s. Innovision Topaz is one of the compatible products that can be used with Type 1 tags.
- Type 2 NFC Tags
Type 2 tags are based on the ISO/IEC 14443A standard. They are read-only or read/write. As such, you can write data on them using an NFC reader or NFC writing apps, such as NFC Tools and NFC TagWriter.
The main advantage of Type 2 tags over Type 1 is that they support data collision protection. This means you can use multiple tags without the signal colliding with other tags.
Type 2 tags have a maximum memory of 48/144 bytes and can be written in 10,000 cycles. The transmission speed is 106 kbit/s. NXP MIFARE Ultra & NXP MIFARE Ultra C are some of the compatible products.
- Type 3 NFC Tags
Type 3 tags are based on ISO-18092 and JIS-X-6319-4. It is used for more complex applications that require higher data rates and more memory.
Type 3 tags are read/write or read-only and have a memory of 1/4/9 KB. They can be written in 10,000 cycles and have a transmission speed of 212/424 kbit/s.
Additionally, they have a super-effective data collision protection system that allows you to use multiple NFC tags, even in a place with a high concentration of radio wave signals.
Sony FeliCa RC-S926 and Sony FeliCa RC-S966 are some of the products compatible with Type 3 tags. You can use these products with an NFC reader, such as the Sony FeliCa RC-S380.
- Type 4 NFC Tags
Type 4 tags are based on NXP DESFire Tag (ISO-14443A). It is a read/write or read-only tag with 4 KB/ 32 KB memory. They can be written in 10,000 cycles and have a transmission speed of 106 kbit/s to 424 kbit/s.
Type 4 tags support multiple applications with independent file systems. This means that you can use the same tag for different purposes. For example, you can use it for public transportation and access control.
Type 4 tags have an effective data collision protection system, which allows you to use multiple tags in a place with high traffic of radio waves. Additionally, they are more resistant to physical damage than other types of tags.
NXP DESFire EV1 2K/4K/8K and NXP SmartMX2/ JCOP are some of the products compatible with Type 4 tags. They are quite expensive but offer more features and are more durable.
- Type 5 NFC Tags
Type 5 NFC tags are relatively low-priced NFC tags based on ISO-14443A and MF1 IC S50. They are also known as the Mifare Classic Tags. They are read-write or read-only and have 192 Bytes/ 768 bytes/ 3584 bytes of memory.
The tags can be written in 10,000 cycles and have a transmission speed of 106 kbit/s. They offer backward compatibility with Type 2 tags.
Additionally, they support data collision protection, which allows you to use multiple tags simultaneously without any signal collision. The tags are compatible with a wide range of products, such as NXP Mifare Classic 1K, NXP Mifare Classic Mini, and NXP Mifare Classic 4K.
Recommended NFC Chips
For an NFC tag to work optimally, you must use it with an effective NFC chip. Here are some of the best chips you can use:
- NXP MIFARE Series. These are the most used chips in public transport, access control, and event management. The MIFARE Classic 1K is the most popular product in this series.
- Sony FeliCa Series. These chips are mainly used in electronic cash systems and electronic ticketing. The Sony FeliCaRC-S966 is the most popular product in this series.
- Infineon my-d move Series. These chips are used in electronic identity documents, such as ePassports and eID cards. The Infineon my-d move 122 is the most popular product in this series.
- NXP NTAG Series. These chips are used in numerous applications, including gaming, loyalty programs, and smart posters. The NXP NTAG 213 is the most popular product in this series. If you want to create an Amiibo card, you should only buy NXP NTAG 215. Any other NTAG will not work.
- STMicroelectronics ST25TA Series. These chips are used in several applications, including gaming, NFC tags, and electronic shelf labels. The ST25TA512 is the most popular product in this series.
- Broadcom BCM20793. This is one of the most popular NFC chips used in smartphones. It is used in a wide range of applications, including mobile payment, ticketing, and access control.
NXP NTAG series is the most recommended NFC chip. They are compatible with a wide range of products and offer a great user experience.
There are no specific regulations for NFC tags. Some of the bodies involved in NFC tags regulation include:
- NFC Forum
The NFC Forum is a non-profit industry association that promotes the use of Near Field Communication technology. It was founded in 2004 by Nokia, Philips, and Sony.
This body has classified NFC tags into four categories, depending on their features and specifications. The four NFC tag types are Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a global federation of national standards bodies. IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) is the international standards body for all electrical, electronic, and related technologies.
ISO/IEC has published several standards relating to NFC, such as ISO/IEC 18092 and ISO/IEC 21481.
There is a wide range of applications for NFC tags. Some of the most popular applications include:
- Contactless Payments
NFC tags can be used for contactless payments. You can use them to make payments at retail stores, restaurants, and other locations.
To make a payment, you just need to tap your NFC-enabled device on the NFC tag. The payment will be processed automatically.
This is a convenient way to make payments, especially if you don’t have cash or a credit card.
- Smart Posters
Smart posters are NFC tags that can be used to provide information about a product or service.
For example, you can use a smart poster to provide information about a nearby restaurant. When you tap your NFC-enabled device on the smart poster, the restaurant’s menu and contact information will be displayed.
Smart posters can also be used to provide directions, coupons, and other types of information.
- Access Control
NFC tags can be used for access control. For example, you can use an NFC tag to open a door or gate.
You can also use NFC tags to unlock your smartphone or tablet. To do this, you just need to tap the NFC tag on your device.
NFC tags can also be used to log into websites and apps. For example, you can use an NFC tag to log into your Facebook account.
- Event Management
NFC tags can be used for event management. For example, you can use NFC tags to track attendees at a conference or seminar.
NFC tags can also be used to provide information about an event. For example, you can use an NFC tag to provide a map of the event venue.
There are many other applications for NFC tags. These are just some of the most popular ones.
- Home Automation
NFC tags can be used for home automation. For example, you can use NFC tags to control your lighting, thermostat, and other devices.
You can also use NFC tags to create scenes. For example, you can use an NFC tag to turn on the lights, music, and other devices when you arrive home.