From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Near Field Communication (NFC)
Mains level : Not Much
Google Pay has recently launched a new feature in India, ‘Tap to pay for UPI’, in collaboration with Pine Labs. The feature makes use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
What is Near Field Communication (NFC)?
- NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity technology that allows NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other and transfer information quickly and easily with a single touch.
- It makes possible to pay bills, exchange business cards, download coupons, or share a document.
How does it work?
- NFC transmits data through electromagnetic radio fields, to enable communication between two devices. Both devices must contain NFC chips, as transactions take place within a very short distance.
- NFC-enabled devices must be either physically touching or within a few centimetres from each other for data transfer to occur.
When did NFC tech start?
- In 2004, consumer electronics companies, Nokia, Philips and Sony together formed the NFC Forum, which outlined the architecture for NFC technology to create powerful new consumer-driven products.
- Nokia released the first NFC-enabled phone in 2007.
How will this technology work with the recently launched feature, ‘Tap to pay for UPI’?
- Google Pay has been the first among UPI apps to bring the Tap to Pay feature working on POS terminals.
- It will allow users with UPI accounts configured on Google Pay to make payments just by tapping their NFC-enabled Android smartphones on any Pine Labs Android POS terminal.
- Once users tap their phones on the POS terminal, it will automatically open the Google pay app with the payment amount pre-filled.
- Users can then verify the amount and merchant name and authenticate the payment, using their UPI PIN.
- The process is much faster compared to scanning a QR code or entering the UPI-linked mobile number which has been the conventional way till now.
What are the other applications of NFC technology?
- NFC tech has a wide range of applications besides driving payment services.
- It is used in contactless banking cards to perform money transactions or to generate contact-less tickets for public transport.
- Contactless cards and readers use NFC in several applications from securing networks and buildings to monitoring inventory and sales, preventing auto theft, keeping tabs on library books,
- NFC is behind the cards that we wave over card readers in subway turnstiles and on buses to check tickets.
- It is present in speakers, household appliances, and other electronic devices that we monitor and control through our smartphones.
- With just a touch, NFC can also set up WiFi and Bluetooth devices in our homes, investopedia noted.
- It also has an application in healthcare, to monitor patient stats through NFC-enabled wristbands.
- NFC is used in wireless charging too.
How safe is this technology?
- NFC technology is designed for an operation between devices within a few centimetres from each other.
- This makes it difficult for attackers to record the communication between the devices compared to other wireless technologies which have a working distance of several metres, according to the NFC forum, a non-profit industry association.
- The user of the NFC-enabled device determines by the touch gesture which entity the NFC communication should take place with, making it more difficult for the attacker to get connected.
- The security level of the NFC communication is by default higher compared to other wireless communication protocols.
Where does it stand in comparison to other wireless technologies?
- There are other wireless technologies available which are replacing cable-based connections.
- The IrDa technology is a short range (a few metres) connection based on the exchange of data over infrared light where the two communication devices must be positioned within a line of sight.
- Today, this technology is mainly used for remote control devices. For larger data communication with computer devices this technology was replaced by Bluetooth or WiFi connections.
- However, for these technologies’ receiver devices need their own power supply due to the larger working distance.
- Therefore, the receiving device cannot be powered by the radiofrequency (RF) field like in NFC, the NFC forum highlighted.
- Another consequence of the larger working distance is the need for the user to configure their device and to pair them together for communication.