Tap and pay, tap to pay or contactless payment are a few terms to refer to the technology near field communication (NFC). We will be using the aforementioned terms interchangeably to refer to technology employed by different mobile payment solutions like Google Wallet, Apple Pay and PayPal, which is near field communication.
Literally tap and pay means making a transaction smoothly by tapping the touchscreen and paying via mobile phone. So what is this NFC? How does it work? This is a primer to NFC technology and how does NFC compare to Bluetooth.
How Tap And Pay Works
Tap and pay technology works on a set of protocols for NFC. This technology enables any devices to do radio communication with another NFC compatible device.
What is NFC
NFC is the abbreviation of near field communication, which at its essence is a form of wireless/contactless communication between two devices. Two devices in question must be NFC-chip-equipped. These taps and pay technology benefits by allowing devices to transfer data without touching each other. All you need to do is wave the smartphone at a NFC-compatible device, subtracting additional steps to set up a connection and hassle.
NFC uses electromagnetic radio fields to allow two devices to send and receive data. By integrating credit cards, debit cards and paper coupons in one device, customers can pay for groceries, subway tickets and redeem exciting offers by a given store. NFC compatible device like a smartphone reduces the need for carrying physical cards. Fewer cards mean less chances of losing business cards, etc. The device works by waving smartphone at a NFC-compatible payment terminal, which makes transactions faster. Faster transactions mean happier clients and little to no waiting queues, right?
NFC Vs Bluetooth
NFC and Bluetooth have several similar features as both are forms of wireless communication. But both have their pros and cons. Bluetooth can communicate over a distance of 30 feet, whereas NFC range is approx. 4cm. In this regard Bluetooth can seem superior, but again both have their pros and cons. So instead of talking who wins and who loses, we, instead, will list pros and cons of both technologies to better understand near field communication.
NFC: Pros And Cons
Below listed are some of the advantages and disadvantages of NFC technology.
- Requires less power: NFC technology consumes less power in comparison to Bluetooth. But when NFC has to power a passive, unpowered source like the tag (read: data receiver), that is the only time when NFC consumes more power than Bluetooth transmission.
- Flexibility: Unlike Bluetooth, the NFC interrogator (read: the sender) and the tag must be in close proximity proves to be useful in crowded locations and where other devices may try to communicate too.
- Ease of use: Unlike Bluetooth in which it takes seconds to search, connect and set connections up, NFC is better in the way that it takes a fraction second to communicate. Though the two concerned devices must be close to one another.
BLE consumes less power: Bluetooth’s latest development, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) is targeted towards consuming less power. Thus, it consumes even less power than NFC.
Bluetooth: Pros And Cons
Bluetooth technology also have some advantages and disadvantages as listed below.
- BLE consumes less power: Latest Bluetooth development, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) consumes even less power than NFC.
- Range: Bluetooth range is approx. 30 feet, which is great for data transfers in crowded places or across a shorter distance. Unlike NFC’s 4cm limit.
- Un-ease of use: In Bluetooth, you must manually search devices, connect and set connections up, which is not ease of use (at least not in comparison to NFC).
- Trouble with interference: When trying to send signals between two devices, Bluetooth may experience trouble with interference when several other Bluetooth-compatible devices are in range.
To understand a technology well, comparisons always work. This is the reason I chose to go a bit deeper into NFC and compare it with it’s counterpart Bluetooth. Pros and cons of both technologies help understand the nature of NFC.
So that’s how near field communication technology or tap and pay technology works. That’s what goes on behind the scenes of Google Wallet or PayPal.