In today’s increasingly mobile world, we love the convenience of using wireless technologies. We want our wireless data to transfer quickly from one device to another without worrying about security. We need access to safe and secure methods of transferring data from one device to another. Who wants to worry about anyone stealing your credit card information while you are paying for your morning coffee?
Luckily, there are two different wireless technologies that work in different ways to make these quick, secure transfers possible. These are NFC and Bluetooth.
NFC and Bluetooth both make connections between two devices over short ranges. They provide reliable communication between those devices to transfer data. Beyond that, they are very different.
NFC is the abbreviation for Near Field Communication. It is a wireless touch technology that pairs two devices quickly without the physical pairing process. To connect these types of devices wirelessly, all you need to do is bring them close enough to read the other device.
There are two different types of NFC devices — passive and active. Passive devices do not process data from other NFC sources and can only connect to an active device. Passive devices include access cards for office buildings and dorms, dog ID chips, and many frequent shopper cards. Active devices can send and receive data. These are what you find in touch payment terminals, smartphones, and smartwatches. They are accessed by apps, such as payment apps, on your phone.
NFC is a newer technology than Bluetooth, though the technology used is older. It sends radio waves using RFID (Radio-frequency Identification). NFC improves it by sending data in both directions instead of only one way like the original technology.
A drawback of NFC is that you can only use it when the devices are within ten centimeters of each other. The close proximity of the devices makes the transfer less prone to interference.
NFC operates at a frequency of 13.5 MHz. The transfer rate is slow in comparison to Bluetooth with a maximum rate of only 425 kbit/sec. However, NFC connects quickly with lightning speed in only about one-tenth of a second. This close and rapid connectivity makes it ideal for handling payments and keeping them secure.
This technology also uses very little power, much less than Bluetooth. The only time it uses more power is when it is pairing a passive, unpowered device like a tag.
Bluetooth was actually the first wireless data transmission. It is a direct radio transmission developed in 1989. To use Bluetooth, you must pair the two wireless devices before you can transfer any data. It is the simplest way to transfer data between two devices, but it can be prone to glitches due to the pairing process.
This wireless technology, now on version 5.1, is in almost all electronic devices like laptops, smartphones, speakers, gaming equipment, and wireless headphones. One device can take the role of the master device and pair with up to seven different other devices at a time, acting as slaves to the master device.
Bluetooth cannot make long-range connections. It can only connect devices that are less than approximately ten meters apart. Although it’s not a long-distance solution, it is one-hundred times greater than what NFC can do.
While Bluetooth pairs more slowly than NFC, it sends data more quickly. Data transfer rates for Bluetooth connections range from about 2 to 3 Mbit/sec. It uses short wavelength, ultra-high frequency radio waves in the 2.4 GHz ISM band.
The power requirement is about one milliwatt. This low power prevents interference with other wireless devices in the same area. It also makes it great for devices that are powered by batteries. It does use up battery life when it is scanning for available connections. So, if you aren’t using it and want to preserve your battery, turn it off.
NFC and Bluetooth are both wireless transfer methods that are very different from each other and have different purposes. NFC is great for transferring small amounts of data over a very short distance and is used mostly for wireless payments and access cards. Bluetooth allows for a more extended range of connectivity and devices such as cellphones, speakers, and headphones commonly use it.
The two technologies can work together to create even better connectivity between wireless devices. The NFC connects devices quickly and then sends a signal to the Bluetooth that allows the devices to move further apart while staying connected and avoiding the dreaded “Searching for a device” message.
Combining the best of both of these technologies will bring us even faster, more stable wireless transfers in the future.