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What in the World is NFC?

By Christy Matte

Imagine being able to get transit information at a bus stop immediately on your phone. Or learning about flora and fauna on a hike. Or paying for all your transactions with a touch of your credit card or phone. What if you could program your front door to allow access for your cleaning person, pet sitter, or best friend? All of these things and more are already possible with the use of NFC, or Near Field Communication technology.

It may sound mysterious, but NFC is simply a way for devices to “talk” with each other or with specially programmed “tags.” It is being built into smartphones, used in credit cards, and integrated into signage. If you’re not already familiar with NFC, you should be, because it’s radically changing the way we share information, control our home devices, and interact with the world.

NFC uses chips so small that they can be (and have been) integrated into book pages. They are being used in hospital bracelets to make sure patients get the proper care quickly and easily. They can be placed in tags that you can use around your home to automate your lights, heating, and home theater devices.

A few more cool uses of NFC:

  • Hotel key cards that allow for touch-access to your room, plus charging privileges and a way to make fast restaurant reservations.
  • Museum labels that provide access to richer content on your smartphone.
  • Video games (such as Skylanders) where physical playing pieces interact with a main game base, and can store statistics to take with you to a friend’s house.
  • Wireless routers that quickly pair with a cell phone or tablet with just a touch, rather than complicated set up procedures.
  • Smart phones that share apps, photos, music, and documents just by touching them together.
  • Stereos that play your favorite music, just by touching an MP3 player or phone to the top.
  • A tiny heart monitor that transfers data right to your cell phone using NFC.

The possibilities for NFC are pretty amazing and we’ve only just started to scratch the surface. So, the next time you’re shopping for a smart phone or gadget, keep your eye out for built-in NFC technology. It’s your chance to be ahead of the technology curve!

Christy Matte is a Boston-based freelance writer and consultant who is passionate about education, technology, and the intersection of the two. She blogs at QurkyFusion.com and Quirky-Tech.com and contributes to Common Sense Media. A mom to two kids, Christy is also the co-founder of Boston Parent Bloggers.

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