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.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
NFC operates at 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 5cm or less.
3. Only a single NFC tag can be scanned at one time.
These properties were developed primarily to enable secure mobile payments and it is for this reason NFC is limited to singular and close proximity interactions. An important by-product is that NFC is now available in the majority of mobile phones and this is perhaps the most important difference between NFC and RFID.