NFC Vs. Bluetooth
The Galaxy Nexus S is the first ever Android device that uses Near Field Communication or NFC. The ever innovative Apple Company is also planning to add it to their future iPads and iPhones. This technology is essentially another way to share files with other NFC enabled phone users, just like what Bluetooth does. So what is exactly the difference between the two? Which is better for wirelessly exchanging files?
Bluetooth is ten years older than NFC. Ericsson was credited for its creation in 1994 while NFC standards where first formed by Nokia, Phillips and Sony in 2004. The Nokia 6131 was the first ever NFC enabled phone although the technology was still not popular during that time. Bluetooth meanwhile has been enjoying its success and a couple of versions have been released ever since. The latest Bluetooth technology is v4.0 otherwise known as Bluetooth low energy.
NFC needs an initiator and a target. The initiator generates the electromagnetic field which powers the target. This enables NFC devices to consume less power than Bluetooth. Some even don’t consume power at all such as tags, stickers and cards. Consequently, establishing a connection between two NFC devices is much faster than Bluetooth. It would take less than a second for two NFC phones to communicate compared to a couple or more seconds for Bluetooth.
There is a big difference between Bluetooth and NFC when it comes to range. You can send a photo with your phone to another Bluetooth device at a distance of 5 meters. This can even reach a hundred meters for a Class 1 device. NFC meanwhile is limited to two tenths of a meter or approximately 8 inches. The idea behind NFC in phones is that you can simply tap the devices together and the files will be transferred instantly.
Despite the short communication range between two NFC devices, the technology is still vulnerable to attacks. Anyone with a special antenna could eavesdrop while two devices are communicating. The Proxmark instrument is an open source device that can be used for eavesdropping on NFC connections. Data sent through NFC can also be destroyed using an RFID jammer, a security attack which has no solution until now.
Since Bluetooth is older, its security is much more improved than NFC. Data sent over Bluetooth are heavily encrypted and only the best hackers in the world could possibly eavesdrop during communication. People who are in-charged of developing standards for Bluetooth have been active in improving its security.
Besides sharing files, NFC is found useful in other areas. NFC phones can now be used to pay bills in stores and restaurants similar to credit cards. Your NFC device contains data unique to you which is why it can act like an electronic ticket or virtual wallet. Germany and Austria have tried to use NFC for ticketing in their public transports. You can also now use Google Wallet to pay for bills in any establishment that accept MasterCard PayPass transactions.
The number of applications of Bluetooth has increased as the years go by. It is now considered as a primary form of wireless communication. Headsets, controllers and other peripherals can now communicate with computers without the need for physical connection. Those applications that previously used Infrared (like in TV remote controls) are now using Bluetooth. We can expect more applications as the technology further improves in the future.
Although both technologies are used for sharing files, they are actually different and have their own uses. The low power consumption of NFC makes it suitable for used in simple objects like tags and keys. Its speed in establishing connection is perfect for making transactions as replacement for traditional credit cards. The amount of information it can send wirelessly, however, is the reason why it can’t replace Bluetooth in wireless applications. NFC can send out 424,000 bits per second compared to 2,000,000 bits for Bluetooth. This means it is still takes less time to transfer files through Bluetooth than NFC. There is also still a lot of room left for security improvements on NFC. Tapping two phones to share files is cool though.
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