HP Technology at Work

The must-read IT business eNewsletter

How to use your phone to pay the parking meter

October 2014

Imagine a device that allows you to track your sleep habits, talks to you about the latest museum exhibit you’re visiting, ensures that you get the right surgery, makes sure your car doesn’t get towed, and acts as a miniature bank that fits in your pocket. It might sound like a gadget from a science fiction show, but near field communication (NFC) technology is enabling all of those applications and more, and is rapidly being embedded into millions of smartphones and other devices worldwide.
 
The global market for NFC-enabled devices was valued at over one billion dollars in 2012, and is estimated to grow at an annual rate of 43 percent well into 2019 [1]. Chances are, if you have a newer smartphone, you have an NFC device right now. So how does that NFC device in your pocket actually work? Read on to find out.
 
How NFC works
At its most basic, NFC is a technology standard that allows devices to quickly establish a wireless connection with other NFC devices or tags over short distances—usually a few centimeters. Much like RFID tags, it uses inductive coupling to allow open communication between active and passive devices
 
Inductive coupling: When an electric current flows through a conductive material, such as a copper wire, it creates a magnetic field. And the opposite is also true: when a conductive material comes in contact with a magnetic field, that field causes an electric current to flow in the conductive material. This relationship is called inductive coupling, and is the basis for how NFC devices communicate.
 
RFID tags: NFC is based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, which also use inductive coupling. With an RFID tag, a reader device generates a magnetic field. This field causes an electric current in the tag, which flows through a set of circuits printed in the tag. The reader device then detects the new magnetic field, generated by this electric current in the tag, and reads it.
 
Active and passive devices: NFC allows for both active and passive devices. Passive devices work like the RFID tags in the example above. They cannot receive information, or initiate a connection. Instead, they only send information when exposed to a magnetic field from an active device. Active NFC devices, on the other hand, can initiate communication, and can both send and receive information over that connection. NFC-enabled smartphones and point-of-purchase store kiosks are examples of active devices.
 
Open communication: It’s important to note that NFC is a standard for communicating between devices, but it doesn’t determine what is being communicated. The actual information transferred is decided on by the software and apps that use NFC.
 
How it’s being used
Point-of-sale: Businesses interested in taking advantage of NFC technology can select from a range of options to accept payments from customer smartphones. Isis®, for example, allows retailers to accept payments, as well as combine rewards programs, offers and campaigns on customer devices.
 
HP Touch-to-Print: Products with this feature, such as the HP LaserJet Enterprise M800 series, simplify the way employees can safely print, allowing them to do so from an NFC-enabled HP ElitePad 900 or 1000 tablet with just one touch.
 
Ticketing and parking meter payments: Public transit ticket inspectors in Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul are using NFC phones to read passenger tickets, while San Francisco has created an app to allow customers to pay parking meters via their phones.
 
NFC compared to Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE)
When NFC is mentioned in the news, it’s often alongside another wireless communication standard called BLE. If you think of wireless communication as a spectrum of options, cell phones provide coverage in terms of miles, Wi-Fi in terms of yards, BLE in feet, and NFC in centimeters. Further differences between the two technologies are described in the chart below [2].

  NFC BLE
Main supporter Android™ Apple®
Range < 0.2 m ~50 m
User experience One to one One to many
Initiated by Consumer Retailer


The future of mobile communication
The demand for near field communication technology and applications is rising fast. NFC-enabled smartphones are expected to jump in shipments from 416 million in 2014 to 1.2 billion in another four years [3]. With its innovative applications and growing popularity, NFC is clearly a technology worth understanding and using.
 
Learn more about NFC
How to print using HP NFC
Wireless printing. Easy.
 
Shop for products utilizing NFC
HP Jetdirect 2800w
HP LaserJet Enterprise 800 series
HP Officejet Pro 8620
HP Officejet Pro 8630
HP 1200w NFC/Wireless Mobile Print Accessory
HP ElitePad 900
HP ElitePad 1000
HP Touch to Pair Mouse

Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

[1] Transparency Market Research, Near Field Communication (NFC) Market, 2014
[2] Infographic, BLE vs. NFC, the future of mobile consumer engagement now, 2014