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The Difference between NFC and RFID
May 15, 2018

The Difference between NFC and RFID


RFID and NFC are two closely related wireless communication technologies that are used globally for a vast number of applications such as access control, asset tracking and contactless payments. RFID was first patented in 1983 and is the precursor to NFC, so we will begin there.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

RFID enables a one way wireless communication, typically between an unpowered RFID tag and a powered RFID reader. RFID tags can be scanned at distances of up to 100 meters without a direct line of sight to the reader and as such RFID is used globally for asset tracking in warehousing, airport baggage handling, livestock identification and much more. RFID operates at a range of radio frequencies each with their own set standards and protocols.


RFID tags can be active or passive. Simply, active means that they are powered and can transmit data. Passive means that they do not have their own power source and must be powered by another device. Active RFID tags can broadcast their data up to 100m. Passive RFID tags have a more limited read range up to around 20m.


Near Field Communication (NFC)

NFC is best described as a subset of RFID. NFC operates within a specific High Frequency (HF) of 13.56 MHz and is an extension of High Frequency (HF) RFID standards. NFC therefore shares many physical properties with RFID such as one way communication and the ability to communicate without a direct line of sight. There are however three key differences.


1. NFC is capable of two way communication and can therefore be used for more complex interactions such as card emulation and peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing.


2. NFC is limited to communication at close proximity, typically a few cm, although distances up to ten times this are theoretically possible.


3. Only a single NFC tag can be scanned at one time.





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