NFC Technical Information
Welcome to NFC Direct's Technical Information section. Here you will find information pertaining not only to various Near Field Communication (NFC) specifications, but also to other forms of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
RFID uses electromagnetic fields to automatically communicate with IC's embedded into objects. NFC is currently one of the most prominent forms of RFID technology, and there are also three other relevant RFID frequencies which you will find covered on the neighbouring pages in this Technical Information section. Here we look at each of these RFID frequencies - NFC, HF, UHF and LF - individually, looking at their unique specs and Integrated Circuits (IC).
While NFC Direct is foremost a leading provider of NFC products, we also supply the other RFID types. By separating the information in our Technical Information section according to the various RFID technologies, we have simplified each frequency for our customers and visitors.
It is easy to learn more about the various frequencies - just click on the neighbouring tabs to be taken to the specific information on each frequency.
Which RFID frequencies are covered?
In this Technical Information section, we cover the four main types of RFID technology, which are the following:
'NFC' (Near Field Communication)
NFC is a Contactless RFID technology which allows communication between two NFC enabled objects at a range within approximately 4cm over a frequency of 13.56 MHz. Typically one of the objects will be a device capable of being an NFC Reader, such as a smartphone or tablet, and the other will be an item which possesses an embedded NFC Tag or NFC Integrated Circuit (IC). To go to the page that covers NFC in more technical detail please click Here
'HF' (High Frequency)
HF products refer to RFID products which utilise the 13.56 MHz frequency band, and are attached to the ISO 15693 and ISO 14443-A/B protocols. HF products are advantageous because they use a signal which can travel through physical objects with a high water content, such as humans and animals. HF is typically used in library rental systems, as well as asset tracking in several industries. To go to the page that covers HF in more technical detail please click Here
'UHF' (Ultra High Frequency)
UHF or Ultra High Frequency refers to the RFID frequency band between 860 and 960 MHz, and enables the rapid identification of items and goods in large quantities. It is attached to the ISO 18000-6B and EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) protocols. UHF is typically used to improve operational efficiency across a number of industries, allowing manufacturers, logistics providers and retailers to track items accurately through the supply chain. To go to the page that covers HF in more technical detail please click Here
'LF' (Low Frequency)
Covering the 30 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 kHz range, but is typically used between 125 and 134.2 kHz, Low Frequency RFID products are typically used in challenging environments across sectors from manufacturing to oil, gas, aerospace and automotive, along with supply chain applications. 'Hard' HF products are ideal to protect against damage from dust and mechanical stress, as well as high temperatures and water immersion. To go to the page that covers HF in more technical detail please click Here
Which RFID information can I view?
Along with the various specifications related to each of the above frequencies, on each page in the Technical Information section we also cover information such as required storage space, as well as Integrated Circuits (IC) which are the chips embedded in each RFID Tag or Product.
You may be used to USB sticks and hard drives with storage capacities of many megabytes or gigabytes. The same principle applies to RFID Tags / Products, but their much smaller scale means that their storage is measured simply in bytes.
One byte is roughly equivalent to one character of text. So a web address (URL) might take up about 17 bytes, for example, while a vCard (electronic business card) would use around 153 bytes.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not quite as simple as looking at the size of your data and working out whether it will fit within the total memory of a IC. That’s because there will always be some of a IC's storage used up on the hidden data that makes Contactless communication work.
You can think of it like this web page: in addition to the words you’re reading, there’s also lots of hidden html code to make sure your browser knows how to display it properly. In the case of RFID Tags / Products there is always some data that is ‘hard coded’ onto the IC (such a unique IC ID), and more hidden data to identify what the IC contains (i.e. whether it’s a URL, a vCard, etc). Different IC's (Integrated Circuits) may have different amounts of hidden data.
For this reason, you need to check what’s sometimes called the ‘user’ or ‘usable’ memory of the Integrated Circuit (IC), bearing in mind the particular requirements of your intended application.
If you’re concerned about how small the memory space of NFC IC's (Integrated Circuits) seems to be, it’s worth remembering that this technology is generally best used in conjunction with a central database, where lots more information can easily be stored, loaded and updated. An NFC IC might, for example, contain just a product ID code. A Contactless reader can then use that code to look up lots more information about that product – such as its name, price, dimensions, or even pictures and videos. It wouldn’t be possible – or even desirable – for the NFC IC to contain all of this information.
If you’re not sure how much storage you will need, we’ll be happy to advise you.
Which IC (Integrated Circuit) to choose?
Whatever the size, shape or material of your Tag or Product, at its heart you will find the chip. Also referred to as an IC (Integrated Circuit), this is essentially a miniature electronic storage device which holds data and communicates it to compatible Contactless readers.
The IC is made up of storage – sort of like a tiny USB stick or memory card – connected to an antenna which can transmit the stored data to a Frequency reader. The key thing that makes the IC's work is the fact that – unlike pretty much any other electronic device in existence – they do not need a power supply. That means nothing to plug in, nothing to charge up, and no battery to run low. Instead, the small amount of power required is drawn from the phone or other Contactless reader via the RFID process itself. Clever, right?
So how can you choose between the different IC's on the market? The main thing to think about is the usable storage space, which needs to be large enough to cope with the amount and type of data you want the Tag to hold. There’s more detail on memory capacities on the following pages.
Other factors include scan accuracy, transfer speed, cryptography support, standards compliance and other factors which may be important for specific applications. As with most technology, there is often a trade-off to be made between the various specifications and features of IC's and their unit costs – so it always pays to work out exactly what you need in advance.
If you’ve got any questions about which IC is right for you, just ask – that’s what we’re here for! We’re always happy to share our NFC expertise.