What is NFC and How Does It Fit into the Electronic House?

A peek at how this wireless technology can make life simpler, as well as 8 products that currently support it.

For years, the consumer electronics industry has been highlighting features such as 3D, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay. This year, we have a new buzzword in the mix: NFC.

NFC isn’t a word. It’s actually an acronym for Near Field Communication. It’s the latest form of wireless technology, which operates very similar to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Well, it operates wirelessly, anyway. However, NFC actually uses electromagnetic radio waves and has a shorter range than some of the other wireless tech currently in use.

While a short range probably wouldn’t be something you’d want for a whole-house setup, it does make the set-up part very easy. In fact, NFC products boast a connection process that’s as easy as “tapping” one device to another. There are no settings, passwords or codes. You do have to have an NFC-capable device — and need to enable those features. From there, if you have an NFC-capable tabletop speaker or soundbar, you can pair it with a NFC-enabled smartphone just by “touching” the two. A physical tap isn’t actually necessary, but it does make the tech sound more friendly, doesn’t it?

According to NearFieldCommunication.org, there are two types of NFC devices. Passive NFC devices have information that other devices can tap into, but they aren’t two-way. An example would be a smart poster with a little NFC tag in or on it. Tap your NFC-capable smartphone to the poster, and all sorts of info, websites or videos will appear on that phone. An active NFC device is the one with the two-way capabilities. This type of NFC device would be something like the aforementioned speaker and soundbar. Often, those products use NFC to connect, but the actual streaming comes via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

“The NFC is just a handshake,” says Sony’s Ray Hartjen of his company’s NFC-capable products. Sony uses the technology as a quick connection between its soundbars, speakers and other NFC-capable products. “The streaming will come through via Bluetooth.”

So what good is having an NFC-capable product? It can make tasks that should be easy a whole lot easier. Once it gets integrated into daily life, you should be able to pay for groceries or movie tickets with the tap of your NFC-capable smartphone. You can even share medical records. This is the same tech that’s currently allowing you to use a phone to enter your home, pair up a printer with your portable, and much more.

NFC has yet to get a wide release. In fact, it’s currently an exclusive for Android, BlackBerry and Windows smartphones (NFC-capable ones to boot). However, it’s already integrated into some of your electronics, allowing users of NFC-capable smartphones to enter a home or share music, video and photos, via a little wave or tap. It’s still in its infancy, but manufacturers are slowly releasing other devices with NFC support inside. Let’s take a peek at 8 NFC-capable consumer electronics devices in our NFC slideshow.

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