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Security and identification trends: NFC

Read about the most exciting trends in the field of security and identification technology:

Access control

Since RFID technology here only acts as a wireless interface between the key and the door, it is also possible to connect a high-security crypto-controller with a very high security level behind the basic NFC system

Increasingly, key systems are using RFID technology, with applications now ranging from hotel rooms through domestic applications to maximum security prisons. The user holds the transponder in front of the reader and, using the exchanged data, the reader or a connected computer checks whether the RFID ‘key’ is authorised to open the door. Since RFID technology here only acts as a wireless interface between the key and the door, it is also possible to connect a high-security crypto controller with a very high security level behind the basic NFC system. This means that the security level can be set entirely according to requirements. In a large access control system, access is often controlled individually via a central computer. If an RFID access card is lost, the relevant card can be locked within seconds, thus preventing unauthorised access. Furthermore, it is also possible to log exactly which card (i.e., who) opened which door.

Car sharing

A simple small NFC tag, which is integrated in a sticker on the user's driving licence, opens the reserved vehicle for users of a car sharing scheme

This system performs a dual function. On the one hand, the NFC tag opens the door of the car and on the other hand, the fixed link between the NFC tag and the driving license ensures that the driver actually has a valid license and has not lost it (temporarily) due to a motoring offence. The computer then transmits the number, via a cellular phone network, to a reservations system on a server maintained by the car-sharing company. If the system shows that the member has reserved that car, the computer unlocks the doors. Most car-sharing clubs ask drivers to leave the keys in a designated place within the car. The keys can be left inside because the computer also controls an ignition-system lock. When the driver exits the car and uses the RFID tag to lock its doors, the ignition system becomes disabled as well. Thus, even if a thief were to force his way into a locked vehicle, he could not start it with the key inside. When the doors are unlocked with the RFID tag, so is the ignition. Some clubs request that members store the key inside the car's glove compartment, which automatically locks and which can be opened only by entering a personal ID number into a keypad inside the car.

Mobile healthcare

In the field of mobile healthcare, NFC technology supports data exchange between a medical sensor and the NFC interface

In the field of Mobile Healthcare, NFC technology supports data exchange between a medical sensor and the NFC interface implemented in a Smartphone for example, enabling the acquisition of data in a sensor tag using the telephone. Patients who have the relevant sensor on their person can when necessary – i.e., if they feel unwell – read the data from the NFC tag and use an app to send it immediately to the doctor, who can make an initial diagnosis based on this data.


RFID systems are ideal for paying small amounts of money

In the Allianz Arena in Munich, drinks are purchased using an RFID system, where visitors add credit to a card in advance, which is deducted when a purchase is made. Any remaining credit can be claimed back at a machine, but many season ticket holders simply keep the credit on their ‘Flash’ card until the next football match. RFID systems are ideal for paying small amounts of money. There are now many different vending machines for chocolate, ice cream, drinks, etc. which support payment via RFID technology. Credit can be loaded onto an NFC-compatible smartphone or an RFID payment card in advance, and the amounts are then deducted when the card is used in a machine. Compared to a cashless payment solution suitable for credit cards, RFID technology is much more economical for machine manufacturers and operators. The prices within vending machines can also be programmed using NFC technology – for example, service personnel can transfer new prices via an NFC-compatible smartphone while filling the vending machine.

Tap and Pair

Tap and Pair offers an easy way to create clear, logical connections

Instead of the relatively complex code entry process which was required in the past, now the devices are held next to each other to establish a logical connection. For Tap & Pair, both devices exchange connection keys, which can then be used for example for a Bluetooth or WLAN connection. In this way, numerous devices can be assigned individually and securely without problems.


Many public transport systems also use RFID technology

Skiers have been using a typical NFC application for years. Now that lift passes have been fitted with an RFID tag, there is no need to waste time scanning a barcode or showing the ticket as the RFID antenna detects the lift pass in the skier's jacket pocket automatically. Many public transport systems also use RFID technology; the Oyster Card on the London Underground is one of the most well-known applications. The RFID technology used in public transport can be used to open-up opportunities for other payment functions. In Taiwan's capital Taipei, most people have a personal RFID travel card for the public transport system, which supports billing in line with an individually selected payment model. This transponder card, originally designed for the public transport network, can now also be used in battery replacement stations where users can exchange the traction batteries of their electric motorcycles for fully charged batteries. The German rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG also uses RFID technology in its Touch&Travel travel card system.