RFID and NFC: What are they and how are they different?

Radio Frequency Technologies, RFID vs NFC: What is the difference?

How these radio frequency technologies work and what their most important applications are.

Radio Frequency Technologies, RFID vs NFC: What is the difference?

Today, the use of RFID and NFC radio frequency technologies is widespread in various fields in society. In this post, we explain what both mechanisms consist of, how they are used in the daily life of individuals and companies and what their main differences are.

What is RFID?

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a technology that identifies different devices and puts them in contact with each other by emitting and reading radio waves. It is a wireless communication procedure that works with a tag system, in which the different terminals work as radio frequency signal transmitters and receivers.

Basic RFID systems consist of reading equipment, a tag and an antenna. The reading device is the signal receiver from the tag, which can be a card or any other object that contains a chip with the identifying data and emits a radio frequency signal over a certain distance.

RFID tags can be active or passive. The former have their own power supply and a greater range (up to 100 m), while the signal emitted by the latter covers a distance of about 25 m and is activated only after interaction with the reader device.

What is NFC?

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a short-range, high-frequency radio wave wireless communication technology used to exchange information between devices. This also consists of a reader device, one or more antennas and a tag that can be active or passive.

All devices with NFC technology operate on the same frequency (13.56 MHz), and have a range limited to about 20 cm for security reasons, since they are usually used in proximity cards for financial transactions (e.g. paying with a bank card) or to access different areas (e.g. as an identification card). Their operation is regulated by the international standard ISO 14443.

Differences between RFID and NFC

While both processes are used to transmit data over a distance, RFID refers to wireless radio frequency identification technology as a whole . Meanwhile, NFC devices are dedicated exclusively to short-range wireless communication using proximity cards.

Thus, NFC systems are actually part of RFID technology, that is, they can be considered as a subgroup of RFID techniques. The main difference is that RFID components can operate and communicate with each other at a much greater distance, which means they are used in different scenarios.

RFID technology applications

RFID systems are very useful in logistics environments to organise loads, packages and inventories, and collect statistics and relevant information on the mobility of objects. They are also used in clothing stores to identify garments and their location, streamlining daily operations and providing an extra security measure.

NFC technology applications

NFC tags are the basis of common proximity devices, such as mobile phones and contactless bank cards conctactless, used to pay at the POS of stores and shops. The same occurs with cards that allow authorised persons to enter buildings through access and presence control systems.

NFC proximity cards are also used to open the electronic locks of hotel rooms, tourist apartments and holiday rentals, so guests can access their rooms conveniently by holding the card close to the reader. In addition, the chip with the identification data can be incorporated into other objects such as bracelets or key rings, further personalising the guest experience.

Devices based on RFID and NFC technology provide extra quality, safety and efficiency in the management of all types of establishments. If you want to know more about technological equipment for hotels, offices and other premises, please continue reading our blog.