NFC - Near Field Communication

You have probably already made a contactless payment at the supermarket checkout using NFC, or could do so at least in theory with the corresponding card. It is practical and saves a lot of time when you only have to hold your card up to the terminal for small amounts and the payment process is completed in just a few seconds. In addition, services such as Apple Pay or Google Pay are pushing their way into shops more and more, so we asked ourselves how the technology that makes all this possible works.

What does NFC mean?

The abbreviation NFC stands for Near Field Communication.
It is an international transmission standard with which data can be transmitted wirelessly over very short distances of a maximum of 10-20 centimetres. An NFC chip built into the smartphone communicates with a corresponding counterpart, such as the terminal at the supermarket checkout or the lock on the front door. If you approach within a few centimetres, the previously programmed process, such as payment or the locking process, is triggered immediately.

How secure is NFC?

The biggest security aspect in favour of NFC is the fact that data can only be transmitted over an extremely small space of a few centimetres. This considerably limits the possibility for third parties to intercept the data in the vicinity. However, the concerns of NFC opponents are not entirely unfounded, as encryption of the transmitted data is not mandatory. For payment transactions in particular, it is therefore often only possible to make four contactless payments of more than 25 euros before the card has to be inserted back into the terminal for security reasons.

What can be done with NFC?

The most important area of application is probably contactless payment at the supermarket checkout, whether by NFC-enabled bank card or via smartphone. As soon as there is an NFC chip in it, small amounts (usually up to 25 euros) can be paid without entering a pin code. If the smartphone is used for payment, a bank or credit card must be connected to the phone beforehand. In addition to payment transactions, NFC is also used in tourism, postal services, access control or when the smartphone is to function as a paperless entrance ticket.