Health & Fitness

What is an NFC Tag ?

NFC (near field communication) is a wireless technology which
allows for the transfer of data such as text or numbers between
two NFC enabled devices. NFC tags, for example stickers, contain
small microchips with little antennas which can store a small
amount of information for transfer to another NFC device, such as
a mobile phone.
An NFC Tag itself consists of three basic components: an NFC
chip, an antenna and something to keep it together. The NFC
chip is a tiny microchip which contains a small amount of
memory and the technology to allow it to communicate. The
antenna is a coil or loop of wire which, in the case of a sticker, will
be an etching a fraction of a millimeter thick. The substrate holds
it together and would typically be a thin sheet of plastic. If the tag
is a sticker, it will have adhesive on one side to allow it to be
attached.
Seritag refer to NFC Tags in terms of NFC stickers, labels, inlays
or discs. Other NFC items such as wristbands, keyfobs or even
drinks mats we refer to as NFC products. While the form of the
product will vary, inside there will be the same basic NFC tag with
a chip, antenna and something to keep it together.

What information can you store ?

Adding data to an NFC tag is called encoding. There’s a wide
variety of data types you can encode onto an NFC tag. For
example, you may choose to encode a URL (web address), a
telephone number or simply a small ID number. The data is
usually stored in a particular way called NDEF (NFC data
exchange format) encoding. This universal way of storing NFC
information means that almost any NFC enabled device will be
able to read and understand the data and what type of data it is.
How much information can be stored on an NFC Tag ?
The actual amount of data varies depending on the type of NFC
chip used. Different tags have different chips and each chip has a
specific memory capacity. It’s worth mentioning that the memory
capacity of an NFC tag is tiny compared to other memory devices
you may be familiar with such as a USB stick or SD card. In fact,
most NFC tags can store only about a sentence of text. A typical
NTAG210 NFC chip can store only a URL up to 40 characters
long. The popular NTAG213 chip NFC tag can store a URL up to
around 130 characters.
However, this is all that you need. An NFC tag is generally
regarded as being a reference to data rather than a data store
itself. For example, you wouldn’t store a website on an NFC tag.
You would store a URL/web address that would link the tag to a
full website on the internet. Similarly, you might store an ID on the
tag so that you can tag an asset. That ID would enable you to
identify the object and gain more information from the ‘cloud’ or
other internet source. You wouldn’t necessarily store any asset
information directly on the tag.
We have put together some detailed information
on https://www.goldenstoreseg.com

What are NFC tags used for ?

Generally, you can mark this into four areas – asset management,
marketing, information access and personal use.
For personal use, they may be used to control your phone. For
example, switching on an alarm, connecting to your wifi or similar.
To be realistic, there are other ways to control your phone which
are probably more useful than using NFC.
Marketing is just starting to gain traction, mainly because Apple
has now enabled NFC on the iPhone. There’s an increasing
number of exciting projects being launched. NFC tags provide a
way to connect a physical object to a virtual online world. For
marketing, it enables brands to provide their users with a quick
way to find out more about products and increase brand
engagement.
Seritag used to consider Information Access as part of Marketing
or Asset Management but the growth in the area means we now
split it out. Essentially, it is the ability to use an NFC tag
embedded within a product, item or packaging to allow a user to
gain more information. For example, an NFC tag might be
embedded into a product to allow the user to gain access (via the
internet) to the latest user manual. Or, an NFC tag might be
embedded into a restaurant table topper/sticker to allow access
to the latest menu information or daily specials.
Asset management is a broad area and covers a number of use
cases. This is probably the largest use area at the moment and
with NFC tags being deployed everywhere from healthcare (where
the person is the asset!) to counterfeit prevention systems.
Could someone change the data on my NFC tag ?
NFC tags can be locked so that once data has been written, it
cannot be altered. For most tags this is a one way process so
once the tag is locked it cannot be unlocked. Encoding and
locking are two separate actions. NFC tags can be re-encoded
numerous times until they are locked.

How can I encode NFC tags ?

The easiest way at the moment is to use an NFC enabled mobile
phone. Almost any Android NFC enabled phone can encode NFC
tags and iPhones from 7 onwards running the latest iOS13
operating system can now also encode. There are a number of
Apps available to do this but we usually recommend NFC Tools or
NXP’s TagWriter. Encoding is as simple as opening the App,
entering your web address and holding the phone over the tag. If
you are buying a large quantity of tags and don’t want to encode
them yourself, then Seritag can encode the tags for you when you
order. We have put together tutorials on how to encode NFC tags
with an Android phone and how to encode NFC tags with an
iPhone.

Which phones support NFC ?

Right now, almost all mobile smart phones can read NFC tags and
almost all Android phones can read and and encode. Apple have
enabled NFC tag scanning on the iPhone 7, 8 and X running iOS
11 or later with an App. The latest iPhone XS/XR, 11, 12,13 and
iPhone 14 models can scan NFC tags natively without requiring
an additional App. Android phones can read NFC tags without an
App.

What else can I do with NFC tags ?

Like the number of NFC enabled phones, the number of NFC Apps
is growing quickly. Contactless technology has become very
important during 2020 and customer facing applications such as
contactless menus have become increasingly normal. As people
become more aware of NFC and scanning physical items for
digital information becomes more normal, tags are starting to
appear in packaging, clothing and products to provide
authentication, information and identification.

How can I buy NFC tags ?

If you are new to the technology then buying NFC tags for your
project might seem a little confusing. Seritag have a wealth of
experience and can help you get your project started. We’ve also
put together some helpful information on buying NFC tags to help
you out.
Is the NFC tag technology different than mobile payment tech ?
A lot of the press regarding NFC is about mobile payments. When
you read an NFC tag, your phone is using the same basic
technology. However, the communication process involved in
making NFC payments is a lot more complicated. Most of the
momentum with NFC is with mobile payment systems but this is
gradually bringing other NFC use cases into the mainstream.

Will NFC tags replace QR Codes ?

That’s a very common question and the short answer is no. QR
Codes are free to create and free to print and NFC tags will
always cost something – even if that cost is gradually falling.
Seritag’s opinion is that QR Codes and NFC tags sit alongside
each other and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
It’s generally considered that the user experience with NFC tags is
better. In the instances where the additional cost of using an NFC
tag is less relevant to the overall cost (for example product
integration or asset management), NFC can be powerful and very
effective. NFC tags have a vastly more secure technology and the
ability to clone or copy an NFC tag ranges from a little tricky to
almost impossible. QR Codes can be copied instantly. NFC tags
can be identified using varied artwork and the integration can be
more sophisticated. For example, NFC tags can be hidden behind
a brand logo or discreetly within the liner of a handbag.
How long do NFC tag batteries last ?
Actually, NFC tags don’t have batteries. They get their power from
just being near a powered NFC device, for example a mobile
phone. For those of you wanting to understand more, read
about NFC Tag Antennas.

What is the scan distance of an NFC Tag ?

The answer depends on both your particular phone and the tag
itself, but generally you need to be within two to five centimeters
(two inches). The absolute maximum realistic scanning distance
with an NFC phone and standard passive (non-powered) NFC tag
is typically 8-10cm. For this reason, NFC works extremely well on
a product level but isn’t generally so great at a larger, perhaps
poster, level. Once you consider a wider area such as a store, then
other technologies such as QR Codes or Bluetooth start to make
more sense

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