An NFC tag is a smart tag that lets users pay for goods or services by simply tapping a nearfield communication (NFC)-capable device to it.

NFC doesn’t differ much from Wi-Fi or Bluetooth in that it is a wireless radio technology communication standard. It is based on radio frequency identification (RFID), which sellers typically use for inventory monitoring and companies to manage the comings and goings of employees.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about an “NFC Tag

NFC tags, as mentioned earlier, work like RFID, but they have a distinct difference.

What Is the Difference between an NFC Tag and an RFID Tag?

While both technologies work pretty much the same way, an NFC tag, as its name suggests, requires users to be nearer to it to read what it contains and enable payment. Specifically, users need to keep their devices up to a maximum of 4 inches from the NFC tag they’re attempting to scan. RFID, meanwhile, specifically long-range RFID, allows users to be as far as 20 meters away from whatever they’re using the technology for.

NFC tags are also way smaller and cheaper than RFID tags, letting users put them in more objects, including posters, tickets, or practically anything that requires payment or disseminates information.

How Does an NFC Tag Work?

NFC tags don’t require a power source. They draw power from the devices used to read them. Users with NFC-capable devices have to go near the NFC tag to work. The devices energize the tag and draw data from it. You should know that NFC tags have small storage for the data and a radio chip attached to an antenna despite their tiny size.

Still confused? Maybe this video will help.

Can You Use Other Electronic Devices (Apart from Smartphones) to Read an NFC Tag?

Yes, you can. In fact, the most popular NFC readers are the contactless payment terminals stores and other business establishments use.

NFC tag reader

Another popular NFC reader is a public transport access gateway. You need a unique NFC tag, either a token or card, containing your personal information and account balance.

NFC tag

Both readers require a power source and Wi-Fi connection to process transactions.

What Are the Different Types of NFC Tags?

Five types of NFC tags exist to date—Types 1–5. Type 1 NFC tags are the least advanced since they can only store up to 1KB worth of data. They can only store one URL or a Wi-Fi password. They are also only capable of a transfer speed of 100kbps at most.

Type 5 NFC tags, meanwhile, can hold as much as 32KB in their memory. They can transfer data four times faster than Type 1 tags. They can hold access control data (e.g., ticket and company ID details). Some Type 5 tags also offer more features like tamper resistance and improved interference handling.

Some more advanced NFC tags can be rewritable, making them reusable. Users just need to erase the data stored on them and replace that.

Consequently, Type 5 tags are pricier than Type 1 ones.

What Is an NFC Tag For?

NFC tags can have several applications. We named a few here.

  • Virtual business card: Users can save their contact information, social media details, and corporate website on NFC tags and give these out as digital business cards.
  • Door key: NFC tags can work as keys to smart locks.
  • Contactless payment: NFC tags let users store credit card information securely. Users can use them to pay for goods via tapping on a payment terminal.
  • Website launcher: NFC tags can be programmed to store a site URL, making launches easier since users just need to read the tag and their device automatically opens the website.
  • Content sharer: Two users with NFC-capable smartphones can simply use the technology to share photos, playlists, or videos.
  • Smartphone controller: NFC-enabled phones can use the tech to save on power by turning off battery drainers until you need them again. NFC tags can also be programmed to turn hotspot sharing and silent mode on and off. Finally, you can program an NFC tag to send pre-crafted messages when you’re driving.

While QR codes remain more popular than NFC tags today, the latter is bound to gain more massive usage as time passes.