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If developments in the tech industry pique your interest, you’ve probably heard of radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC). You may have seen RFID in the news recently, or you may have found out that your Smartphone is actually an NFC device.

This article will attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about RFID and NFC.

What is RFID?

RFID identifies items using radio waves, while NFC is a specialized subcategory within the family of RFID technology. More specifically, NFC is part of High-Frequency (HF) RFID. NFC was developed as a secure form of data exchange. An NFC device can be both an NFC tag and an NFC reader. This unique feature enables NFC devices to communicate peer-to-peer.

RFID is a method of identifying items and as such, it consists of a reader, a tag, and an antenna or aerial. The reader transmits a question to the tag via the antenna, and the tag replies with its unique information.

Tags can be passive or active. The electromagnetic energy transmitted from the RFID reader powers passive RFID tags. They have a read range from near contact and up to 75 feet because the radio waves need to be strong enough to power the tags.

Passive RFID tags mainly operate at one of the following frequency ranges:

  • Ultra High Frequency (UHF) 856 MHz to 960 MHz
  • High Frequency (HF)13.56 MHz
  • Low Frequency (LF) 125 -134 kHz

Active RFID tags can broadcast over up to 300 feet because they contain their own power source. Their long read range makes them perfect for many industries where logistic improvements are important.

NFC Devices – An Improvement on HF RFID

NFC devices need to be in close proximity to each other, which is why they’ve become the go-to solution for safe communication between consumer devices, such as cell phones. Peer-to-peer communication makes NFCs different from typical RFID devices.

The fact that an NFC device can be a reader and a tag makes it a popular choice for contactless payment. Moreover, NFC Smartphones pass information on to one another when you tap them together, which makes sharing data such as contact info or images an easy and simple task.

Some NFC devices can read passive HF RFID tags that are compliant with ISO 15693. The information on these tags can contain commands for the NFC such as opening a certain mobile app. We’ll start seeing HF RFID tags and NFC tags in commercials, posters, and signs more and more often because they are an efficient way to pass along information to consumers.

Ultimately, NFC builds upon the standards of HF RFID and alters its limitations, becoming an advantage and salient feature of near-field communication.