Near-field communication (NFC) is a set of communication protocols that enables communication between two electronic devices over a distance of 4 cm (11⁄2 in) or less. NFC offers a low-speed connection through a simple setup that can be used to bootstrap more-capable wireless connections. Like other "proximity card" technologies, NFC is based on inductive coupling between two so-called antennas present on NFC-enabled devices—for example a smartphone and a printer—communicating in one or both directions, using a frequency of 13.56 MHz in the globally available unlicensed radio frequency ISM band using the ISO/IEC 18000-3 air interface standard at data rates ranging from 106 to 424 kbit/s.
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The standards were provided by the NFC Forum. The forum was responsible for promoting the technology and setting standards and certifies device compliance. Secure communications are available by applying encryption algorithms as is done for credit cards and if they fit the criteria for being considered a personal area network.
NFC standards cover communications protocols and data exchange formats and are based on existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) standards including ISO/IEC 14443 and FeliCa. The standards include ISO/IEC 18092 and those defined by the NFC Forum. In addition to the NFC Forum, the GSMA group defined a platform for the deployment of GSMA NFC Standards within mobile handsets. GSMA's efforts include Trusted Services Manager, Single Wire Protocol, testing/certification and secure element. NFC-enabled portable devices can be provided with application software, for example to read electronic tags or make payments when connected to an NFC-compliant system. These are standardized to NFC protocols, replacing proprietary technologies used by earlier systems.
A patent licensing program for NFC is under deployment by France Brevets, a patent fund created in 2011. This program was under development by Via Licensing Corporation, an independent subsidiary of Dolby Laboratories, and was terminated in May 2012. A platform-independent free and open source NFC library, libnfc, is available under the GNU Lesser General Public License.
Present and anticipated applications include contactless transactions, data exchange and simplified setup of more complex communications such as Wi-Fi. In addition, when one of the connected devices has Internet connectivity, the other can exchange data with online services.
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