Growing Potential of NFC in Industrial Applications

Outside the "traditional" application to mobile payment systems, smart posters or automated device configuration, NFC can also create greater efficiency, accuracy and cost savings in industrial applications.

Payment systems and marketing frequency programs are just the beginning for NFC technology. In addition to the mounting interest in NFC for mobile access control, it also promises to empower more efficient, effective industrial applications.

Specifically, combining NFC-enabled smartphones with ruggedized RFID tags offers additional benefits when compared to traditional RFID solutions. When an application requires frequent interaction with tags at numerous process points by many different parties, the financials of using traditional handheld readers may prove to be cost prohibitive. By replacing handheld readers with NFC smartphones at certain data collection points, the ROI for the application increases.

Additionally, since housed RFID transponders are more durable and resistant to environmental conditions than labels or even cards, installations using NFC technology are possible within harsh environs. HID Global has a suite of RFID tag products that are NFC-ready today, such as the IN Tag, Epoxy Disc, Clear Disc, ID Bands, ISO Cards and Keyfobs. Also, the HID Contactless on-metal sticker allows one to add NFC tag capabilities to not yet NFC enabled electronic devices like smartphones. All these tags already have proven performance in traditional applications.

How different is NFC from traditional RFID solutions?

Not very.

NFC is a set of short-range wireless technologies, typically requiring a distance of 4 cm or less. It operates at HF 13.56 MHz on ISO/IEC 18000-3 air interface and at rates ranging from 106 kbit/s to 424 kbit/s. NFC involves an initiator and a target; the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target. This enables NFC targets to take very simple form factors such as tags, stickers, key fobs, or cards that do not require batteries. NFC applications require a so-called NDEF data structure on the tag, which is supported by several different chip types including the commonly used MIFARE DESFire EV1 chips also found in the HID tag portfolio.

Industrial NFC applications take advantage of the fact that the reader population strongly increases by NFC smartphones. These can be used as HF RFID readers in addition to all their traditional smartphone functions like internet connectivity or GPS. In many professions the users may already have smartphones, so if these phones are NFC-enabled, the costs for separate dedicated RFID readers can be reduced. Also, the development of special applications is often easier for these smartphones, due to the large developer community and mature programming environments. HID RFID Tags are ready to work in such environments today. And, as industrial NFC use cases become more popular the HID tag family will grow with them.

Where might the burgeoning NFC technology yield efficiency and productivity in industrial applications? Add your comments below.