In-Depth on NFC

Blog Date:  2/16/2012
Author:  Ray Coulombe

Much has been written about Near-Field Communications (NFC) for consumer transactions; however, NFC is still so new that I want to address it in a broader security context and, hopefully stimulate some creative thinking. In my opinion, multiple security applications are waiting to be developed.
NFC is an RFID standards-based wireless technology, operating at 13.56 MHz over extremely short distances (less than 2 inches). When designed into a smartphone, it is capable of enabling data transfer between the phone and a companion device. The Nokia model 6131 was the first NFC phone, introduced in 2006. The predominant application driving this technology has been electronic payment as a follow-on to contactless smart cards, and manufacturer interest has been significant, as witnessed by the growth of the NFC Forum ( — founded in 2004 by Nokia, Philips and Sony — to more than 135 members today.
Like RFID, data transfer is based on inductive coupling in an unlicensed ISM band. Devices can function as readers or writers and be active or passive, as long as one device is active. Energy from an active device will couple to and power the passive device. In peer-to-peer mode, devices may actively exchange data and set up Bluetooth or Wi-Fi sessions; and, in card emulation mode, the NFC phone may mimic a traditional smart card, because the RFID infrastructure is essentially the same.
Given its roots in RFID technology, access control was a natural first application for NFC in the security space. HID Global and Assa Abloy have taken a strong proactive approach in the implementation of NFC technology (Editor’s Note: see page 29 of this issue for a report on HID’s NFC pilot at Arizona State). Other, less obvious applications will undoubtedly emerge. For some, it is simply a matter of answering questions like: “Is there information I would like to access,” or “Do I need to control or activate something,” or “Do I want to authorize someone or some action,” or “How can existing RFID function be enhanced through the use of a highly intelligent smartphone reader device?” <>br/> Link to Complete Article as it appeared in Security Technology Executive Magazine


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