Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is offering smartphone users an easy alternative to QR codes for access to the internet and other secure applications. The biggest difference is that NFC is not limited to a single task; rather it facilitates multiple actions.
For example, at your local coffee shop or public wi-fi hotspot, just wave your phone over the NFC tag. No need to fumble with a keyboard or enter multiple steps to access the application of your choice.
An Android app, built by software developer Joshua Krohn, enables multiple instructions to be stored in an NFC tag so that users can simply touch their NFC phone to the tag to initiate a series of events without needing to make an online connection.
Krohn notes, “Applications such as this usually require several steps and are limited to one task. This app eliminates the need to register for an account with any service or make a network request for the desired action. All you need is the application installed.” It’s available to download from Android Market for $1.99.
Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS 7.1 features a tag that unlocks the NFC chips in its newer devices for contact and file sharing. It offers visual bells and whistles, including animated avatars, more emoticons, and custom color chat bubbles. More information can be found at BlackBerry App World.
Google’s new Android software, the Ice Cream Sandwich, uses NFC to communicate from phone to phone. When the backs are tapped together, the owners can trade pre-specified information such as contacts and URLs.
Samsung has jumped on the bandwagon with NFC tags or stickers called “TecTiles.” They cost $15 for five stickers, and offer other smartphone users multiple forms of access to your information. For example, program a tag with your phone number and stick it on your business card. The recipient only needs to tap her phone to the card and yours will ring. Or tap the phones together to transfer photos or video files.These NFC tags are compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, as well as the HTC EVO 4G LTE sold by Sprint Nextel.
Sony Corp's Xperia Ion features similar tags that cost $20 for four, and the phone can be programmed with specific data to react differently to each tag.
A caveat: not all tags can be read by all phones. For example, Samsung tags can be read by any phone running “Ice Cream Sandwich” except the Sony phone. Samsung and HTC phones won't recognize the Sony tags.
While there are still some bugs to be worked out for universal appeal and usage, it appears NFC may be the wave of the future for data access and sharing.
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