Co-invented by NXP Semiconductors and Sony Electronics, Near Field
Communication (NFC) is a subset of RF identification (RFID). It operates at
13.56 MHz and performs many of the same functions as RFID tags and contactless
smartcards, while adding peer-to-peer communications.
With NFC, a simple tap is all it takes to initiate a transaction. Depending on
the use case, that transaction can use one of three operating modes:
Read/Write, Peer-to-Peer or Card Emulation. Here’s a short overview of
In Read/Write mode, the system performs the functions of a contactless
reader/writer. The system’s NFC IC interacts with an NFC-enabled device
– such as a contactless smart card, an NFC tag or an NFC-enabled
smartphone (operating in Card Emulation Mode) – and either reads data
in from the device or writes data out to it. This mode is used to get
information or initiate an action.
Peer-to-Peer mode is used to establish a two-way communication channel
between a pair of NFC-enabled devices. Each NFC-enabled device serves as an
endpoint, meaning the two systems can initiate a communication as equals, or
peers. This mode uses either a passive or active communication scheme.
Card Emulation Mode lets the system behave as an ISO/IEC 14443-compliant
contactless smart card.
This means that the NFC-enabled device can be used in the existing contactless
card infrastructure, for things like ticketing, access control, transit,
tollgates and contactless payments.
Look at real-world systems
For block diagrams that show how NFC can be integrated into an application,
check out these NFC-enabled systems:
Get the details
For an online overview of what NFC is and what it can do for you, visit our
NFC Everywhere website.