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back to article WTF is... NFC

Near Field Communications (NFC) has been around for almost a decade, but only recently become a smartphone feature because, simply, no one knows what it's for. Not that NFC is short of applications, but its broad utility makes it hard to pin its ideal usage model down. When Nokia, Philips and Sony first proposed the short-range …

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Anonymous Coward

It's not too bad

If you want to pay for a sandwich in London. Some of these places have queues out the door even with a whole bank of self-service NFC terminals. But other than that I can take the 5 second hit from typing in my pin. I think the sandwich shops are the only people who can afford the high price of these transactions anyway.

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Re: It's not too bad

All of these payment options take longer than giving the guy a fiver. They have machines now you can go up to, stick your card in and get cash instantly, and you can get enough of it in one go that you can give it to other people in return for services for several days.

Works for me. Plus, no-one is analysing what you spend your cash on.

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Re: It's not too bad

Card dropped in street : Phone for new card.

Cash dropped in street : ?

Thats one of the reasons I dont like carrying cash.

Another is that card payments are faster than waiting for cashier to count my change, getting it wrong, sorting it (Or more commonly just not realising that they gave you the wrong cahneg in the first place.

I really dont care if some one wants to pour over my card purchases.. the only thing that I would be concerned about would be what they thought was happening on the days when my girlfriend borrows my card and goes clothes shopping.

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Re: It's not too bad

I don't know about you, but I often like change back from my sub whole note transactions....

I would bet my sandwich that tapping my NFC card against the terminal is faster than a PFY at the cash register, struggling to decipher the mindboggling array of different shaped and coloured payment discs to exchange for my paper rectangle...

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Re: It's not too bad

Well, you would be wrong. It happens to me every day, queuing up in Eat behind people paying for stuff with card - contactless or otherwise. It's miles slower than cash.

Cash: Here's a fiver, here's your change, I'm gone.

Card: Tap it where? Oh, ok. Wait, that one didn't work, try again. Its authorizing... Ok.

Cash is always negotiable, has no barrier to acceptance, and is accepted worldwide.

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Re: It's not too bad

Try taking your fiver to the USA and see if your fiver is accepted there, not so worlwide huh. Going to the bank and then to the store, nice you have just made your transaction a lot longer. As long as the terminals do not have a dialup conection I always find it quicker than cash to type in a pin.

You do not have to rely on the casiers math skills or wether something intterupts them.

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Re: It's not too bad

But in your example it seems that it is slower because of inexperience or immature technology, and both of these will change. The speed difference is never more clearly shown than on a bus when people just walk on and slide their card against a scanner without pausing, vs, someone stopping to pay in change and counting it out.

Personally I'm fine with NFC payments on two conditions. One - I can still use cash when I don't want to leave a data trail and two - I can use a credit card system rather than direct account deduction. I want to set limits on these things just the same way I only want to carry twenty quid around instead of two-thousand quid.

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Re: It's not too bad

@Tom 38: My only reservation these days with paying cash, is the number of bloody fake £1 coins in circulation. Admittedly, I could be more careful checking my change but more often that not, I don't realise I've been given a fake until I try and buy something from the vending machine at work.

Also as another poster pointed out, it can sometimes be excruciatingly painful when a cashier gets confused when you give them £5.34 to pay for an amount of £3.84 (expecting £1.50 in change). It should be as simple as counting the money I've given them, entering it into the till and waiting for the answer on the display.

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Re: It's not too bad

And I thought NFC for NO Friking Clue

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Re: It's not too bad

@tom38

Until you get outside and realise that they gave you:

a. Too little change.

b. a mixture of £sterling and some ones lira left over from a holiday in the 80s that they managed to pass off as a pound coin earlier in the day.

c. Coins that have been handled by a number of people, some of which (statistically) didnt wash their hands after their last wee/poo/fap) - Im not overly concerned about that level of cleanliness but really when you think about it thats minging.

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Re: It's not too bad

Your fiver will be accepted at many bureax de change around the country, were they will exchange it for the green coloured bits of paper the retailers there prefer.

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Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

"Unlike RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, which are powered up by the received radio signal, and can thus be read at extreme ranges by upping transmitted power, NFC devices are powered using an induction coil"

RFID are powered by an induction coil.

Passive NFC are powered by an induction coil.

They are almost exactly the same, the only real difference is that N-mark compliant devices are a particular implementation of RFID, branded differently with a need to comply with a specific set of protocols, while RFID is a more generic class of technology.

Congratulations on falling for the oldest marketing trick in the book, the wonderfully sneaky "Name Change"

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Re: Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

Btw if u hAve a nfc fone on android. Search market place for nfc readers

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

I was under the impression that passive NFC could still power a processor in order to have active communications, whereas RFID is just a passive power it up and it sends you a number type of device. Also that the power which runs an NFC is from an induction coil in the reader (hence the short range), whereas the power which runs an RFID is from the radio signal, strictly speaking induction, but a bit different.

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Re: Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

Yes, they're the same RF technology, but it's not a name change, any more than Television was a name-change of Radio. RFID is a proper subset of NFC; NFC adds additional applications.

NFC devices can read, or become, RFID tags, but the RFID devices cannot deal with all types of NFC equipment.

In any case, here's a cool video that visualises the "near-field" itself :

http://vimeo.com/7022707

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Anonymous Coward

"All that is perfectly possible without NFC of course"

And there's your problem.

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One thought does spring to mind

Oyster. That would be really handy to have as an NFC system. Granted, it wouldn't be a whole lot more faster than swiping with a card but it would save a lot of resources.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One thought does spring to mind

Actually it would be slower. 200ms slower, which according to London Transport means the gate not opening in time for an average-speed walker

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Re: One thought does spring to mind

Don't wish for it. The contactless systems I'm forced to used nominally requires a tap but of course being near field the response can happen at anywhere between a few centimetres or a few millimetres which can be incredibly disconcerting like a keyboard with random lag. I'd imagine that slows things down significantly.

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WTF?

The only thing that made me get new

I use a contactless card on the bus every day. It certainly doesn't take two seconds to recognize that I have paid for a month of travel and tell me how many days I have left.

But this is in Norway, perhaps it is better implemented here. (Not everything works well here either I do realize).

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FAIL

The Orange San Diego is another UK NFC enabled phone. Unfortunately Orange don't seem to support Quick Tap on it. Pretty lame eh? .

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If I only had £10M..

There is a *perfect* solution to the problem, which exists in 3 parts. The problem is that it takes about £10M to set up the global network to support it, but at that point you would be the first in something like 2 decades to actually *compete* with VISA and Mastercard. The problem you have is that those two (and AMEX) have built a global equipment infrastructure, which is hard to compete with unless you do the same.

Unless you don't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If I only had £10M..

Where do you get the £10M number from? That sounds awfully cheap.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If I only had £10M..

£10m wouldn't even buy and staff a data centre and since you would be a financial institution the laws in pretty much every country you operate in would require you have at least 2 data centres each of which must be capable of handling your entire financial business.

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Anonymous Coward

I still like

the security of knowing that no-one can take my money without me physically inserting my card into a device. The idea of someone being able to charge me by my card being waved in the general vicinity of a reader is horrific from a security standpoint.

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Re: I still like

That's the advantage of optical methods over radio based ones. But it requires more costly hardware if it is scanning QR codes.

At least with optical if nobody can see the screen then nobody can scan it.

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Re: I still like

You should try the Oyster card system. If even London Transport, EDS and Fujitsu can make a form of NFC work, and work very well, then there's hope.

The problem, as the article alludes to, is that when it comes to everyday payments with NFC, every c*** wants a cut, mostly undeserved. The evil duopoly already cream off exorbitant amounts from global tranactions. Take Mastercard, who made $2bn profits on less than $3bn of real assets, now there's a return we'd all like. Then you've got merchant fees, banking fees, the mobile networks hoping for a slice, mobe OS makers thinking they're due a cut.

NFC will only happen if it is convenient and offers good value, and everybody involved seems to be intent on ensuring that it won't be either.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still like

Where would the money go? For someone to be an electronic pickpoicket, wandering round crowds, maxing out the money they can take from any card, they would need a Merchant account and merchant machine. This means that the banks know who they are, where they are, what their business model is and would be happy to send the Police round at the drop of a hat should there be any suggestion of fraud. They may get away with it for a very short time, but not for long and the amount of money made wouldn't outweigh the time to be served, once caught.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still like

Yeah, yeah, anyone in banking is evil.

The 30 employee software company I work for made £100M in profit last year on assets of a couple of million quid. Does this make us evil, or does it mean that our business is built on rather more than just our physical assets, as Mastercard and Visa's is.

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Re: I still like

"Yeah, yeah, anyone in banking is evil."

Well, I think they've not come up smelling or roses over the past few years, have they? Or have you been hiding in a cave since 2006?

"The 30 employee software company " I think you'll find that there's plenty of choice of most types of software. With payment networks, there's stuff all choice, and the costs to use are set purely at levels that originally made tons of money for the then owners (the banks), and then at a level to raise plenty of cash for the banks when Mastercard were floated. And Mastercard have been fined for anti-competitive practices and unlawful charging, which I'd guess your company haven't.

But hey, if you want to believe the sun shines out of their fundament, don't let me stop you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still like

Oyster's RFID, not NFC

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Re: I still like@ FatsBrannigan

See the post above by Richard 12

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Re: I still like

@Giles Jones --

At least with optical if nobody can see the screen then nobody can scan it.

I imagine that grabbing a screen shot of your QR code could be quite easy... at the simplest wouldn't it be trivial for a member of staff with ill intent to hide a small web cam near the scanner? At least NFC has some level of security.

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Happy

Re: I still like

You made £100M more profit than Visa Europe did last year, since it's a non-profit organisation.

Don't believe me?

http://www.visaeurope.com/en/about_us/our_business.aspx

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ticketing

There's a plan to enable NFC in Tallinn public transport. Instead of waving a card at the reader on the bus you wave your phone. Which I'd like, it remains to be seen whether they'll manage to implement it. I don't want another RFID card in my wallet interfering with the other cards.

It be great if I could register my NFC phone for all the places where I have a card instead of a physical key to open doors. Home, home garage, work, work2, etc. I know the frequencies don't match though.

Getting rid of the physical wallet altogether sounds good to me too.

As for security, that's a technical problem. Let's hope it can be done with NFC. A confirmation on the phone for transactions would do it.

And isn't NFC enabled on most smart phones these days, not just the S3, except for iphones? gsmarena found 133 phones with NFC: http://www.gsmarena.com/search.php3 Choose NFC required and hit search.

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Re: ticketing

There's still the issue of losing your phone or having it stolen, thus rending you without any method of paying someone and no method of ringing someone for help.

Especially with how fast phone boxes are vanishing too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ticketing

So, rather like losing a handbag, which contains phone, purse, keys, etc.

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Black Helicopters

Security

Article could do with more information on native security of NFC, and security weaknesses?

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Go the whole hog

Near field? What about long field? Might as well just put a transponder in my hat, so I can wonder around taking any items I want from the shops, and you can just send me an invoice later. Why not...

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other UK NFC phones

how about the HTC one X or the Samsung Galaxy SII NFC?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: other UK NFC phones

There are in fact a plethora of handsets available in the UK that support the technology, which a simple search would have revealed. Fail.

My Galaxy Nexus is one of them.

See http://www.nfcworld.com/nfc-phones-list/

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Very poor article for the Reg

Not the best researched article on The Register. As Richard12 points out, passive NFC is powered in exactly the same way as RFID because it *is* high frequency (13.56MHz) RFID - with comms happening in both directions. More basic RFID is 125kHz but works in much the same way.

There are plenty of NFC enabled phones - my Galaxy Nexus being one obvious example. It worked fine with Google Wallet using the free pre-paid card but there was no way to associate a UK credit card with it.

Also, a HUGE unnecessary chunk of the article talking about Apple when there's not really anything to say about Apple and NFC.

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All very well and good but....

I've had one on my debit card for about 5 years (at a guess) and I can never find a payment terminal that either accepts it or when it does accept it, works, even the ones at the Olympics (and you'd think Visa might have tried to push the technology a bit more at such a prime event) weren't working 50% of the time. In fact there's only one I know of that has 100% up time so far, and that's my local Costa, shame their staff are so slow.

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Oh dear another "journalist" who couldn't be bothered to research the topic properly. There has been quite a choice of NFC equipped handsets in the UK for at least several months. Some manufacturers like Sony have more than one model, so does Nokia and Samsung, in fact just about the only comapny turnong its back on NFC is Apple - once again not ready for prime-time.

Yes, RFID has been around for years and is essentially the same technology but it uses a low radio frequency (125KHz) which enables a longer reading-range. NFC uses a much higher frequency (13.56MHz) which has benefits such as preventing the two systems from interacting in any way, and the receiving distance is shorter which assists the security of a transaction.

The technology is mature, applications are simple to write and thus plentiful - just look at the selection of Android apps as an example, and many consumers are eager to use the tachnology if only it would be made more available.

What is holding it back is the various service companies fighting tooth and nail to get in on the act.The banks of course feel that anything to do with money is their god-given right, so do the credit-card companies. Now too the mobile service providers see an opportunity to influence and control their customers to an even greater degree and quite overlook the obvious point that shopping transactions are absolutely none of their business. Just the thought of permitting these providers to become involved in this should fill us all with fear - after all they do not have a great reputation for keeping consumers' accounts straight as it is, what will happen if they have some control over our credit-cards and/or bank accounts too?

Now almost unnoticed in all this is that all these companies who are salivating over the thought of becoming involved and whose in-fighting is actually delaying the roll-out, are all expecting to be paid for handling our money. Who is going to pay them - the consumer? Surely not, we do not actually see the handling charges from the credit-card companies, we carefully seek out ATMs that do not charge us, so I hardly think we will be happy to accept new charges for the privilege of waving a phone at a terminal instead of a card !

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Unknown

"It's common to see NFC credit card receivers in sandwich shop chains, for example - the put them in to speed the throughput of hungry punters - by it's much less common to see them in use."

So as a bank card holding NFC convert, my view as to why they aren't used, are a bit different to yours:

a) Payment terminals don't look obviously different nor indicate "NFC here", you've often got to look around for a promo poster etc. etc.

b) It's far to easy to do what you've done thousands of times before, insert card type pin. Its now so ingrained, that combined with a) it's too easy to use pin as normal.

c) Loads of people don't seem to know they can, or how to.

In short, it needs a machine that looks different, shouts "Hay, just tap your card on my screen", and maybe people will try using it.

Otherwise people will just keep doing what they've always done, because it's what they've always done.

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Re: Unknown

And we all know people do not like change (excuse the shit pun!). For this to work as effectively as they want it to it is going to have to roll out the same way chip and pin was. Get everyone enabled then set a cut off date for chip and pin.

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Re: Unknown

The problem with that is that it's designed at the moment only for transactions under £20, would you really want to buy a £20,000 car by a swipe, or more to the point, would you want a thief to buy a car with a swipe of your stolen card?

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It's not really not liking change, it's not knowing what terminals support it, what the staff in the shop would do if you attempted to pay in that manner (they'd probably look at you condescendingly and explain you had to insert the card in the reader - how many minimum wage costa employees even know what NFC even is?).

I'm told Costa does, but i don't go there because their sandwiches are shite. Never seen the symbol anywhere else... The local pub definately doesn't (their card reader still uses dialup).

The card version isn't actually any quicker - Wave card over terminal/type pin is exactly the same as insert card/type pin. In theory fractions of a second quicker.

Putting the cards on the phone could be a win except (a) the banks etc. can't agree on a standard that actually allows you to do it because they all want a cut, and (b) it means if you leave your phone somewhere you've also left all your credit cards.. and I don't trust the security of the average phone as far as I could throw it.

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Is it too late?

Honestly; when it comes to phone NFC payments, I think NFC is dead. It's been poised to break out how many times now, but with card operators, phone operators and the interbank networks refusing to all work together, it's never going to happen, and its going to be a hard sell I think pushing NFC over the marginal benefits it offers over swipe + pay, over no-new-hardware-required QR codes.

The pairing thing is intreging, but will need someone who isn't apple to make it work, and I say this as an iPhone user. It's going to need someone who sells both phones, and regular home consumer electronics devices to provide the initial core of supplied devices. Sony's inability for its divisions rules them out. Apple don't make TVs, sterioes etc (although they do have some traction in AirPlay), but the best candidate to get that going has to be Samsung.

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Certainly a bad thing for anything security releated

A normal chip card has to be inserted to have a contact. It's impossible to contact that card without my consent. Now imagine some malevolent person building NFC readers (e.g. card terminals) into park benches. It would be trivial for them to authenticate non-PIN transactions.

And even with PINs it's a nightmare waiting to happen. Imagine kids putting an NFC reader into their back packs connected to a little computer (i.e. Raspberry PI) and writing a little script to constantly enter random PINs. Once they contact your card and are able to enter 3 wrong PINs you have a problem. Guessing wrong PINs is easy, and it's a prank many people can do.

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