Future Directions Of Nfc Services Computer Science Essay

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Near Field Communication, as an emerging and promising technology, is an integration of Radio Frequency Identification technology with mobile devices. NFC‑enabled mobile devices can act as contactless smart cards and are also capable to read and write data from/to those cards. Research endeavours concerning NFC appear to focus mainly on development of NFC enabled services and applications. On the other hand, benefits and underlying values associated with different NFC applications' service is not yet well elaborated. In this paper we researched existing NFC applications, prototypes and studies from both academia and industry. We analyzed these applications by classifying them into NFC operating modes to surface the nature of underlying value‑added services and benefits that they provide. Moreover we emphasized possible future usage scenarios together with directions and questions for future research based on the identified benefits.

Keywords- Near Field Communication, Mobile Applications, Emerging Technologies


Near Field Communication is a short range wireless communication technology which is evolved from Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). It enables communication between two NFC enabled devices within few centimeters.

Recently many business scenarios are implemented using NFC technology such as payment, ticketing, supply chain management systems, and also new NFC specific scenarios are arisen such as smart posters. NFC's three different operating modes, which are described later, and increasing capabilities of mobile devices enabled many NFC scenarios to be implemented.

In NFC, the communication occurs when two NFC compatible devices are brought together less than four centimeters, or simply by touching themselves. It operates at 13.56 MHz and can transfer data up to 424 Kbits per second [1]. In an NFC model two devices are involved in the communication, which are called initiator and target. Initiator is an active NFC device which is responsible for starting the communication. Also it has an embedded energy component whereas target can be either a tag, RFID card or an NFC device which responses the initiator's requests [2].

The devices in the communication share a single RF band in which the communication is half-duplex [2]. When one device is transmitting, the other one has to listen first and should start to transmit after the first one finishes.

An advantage of NFC technology is mobile devices can be used both as an information storage or an NFC reader. They can read information from NFC tags and display that information on the screen with an ability to make additional processing. Also they can be used as a digital storage e.g. storing credit card information.

Other most important advantages of NFC technology include;

The technology is compatible with existing RFID structures, existing RFID tags and contactless smart cards [1].

It is easy to use and familiar to people because users don't need to have any knowledge about the technology. All a user has to do is to start communication by bringing two devices together [3].

The transmission range is so short that, when the user separates two devices, the communication is cut. This brings inherent security. If there isn't any other device close, there is no other communication.

Since NFC technology is invented, various real-life applications have been evolved. An NFC literature review study in [4] revealed that, about 40% of the NFC literature concentrated on developing new NFC applications. However we realized that benefits and values of these applications are not studied. To demonstrate the value of an NFC application, consider the following example, which is an automated check-in system for hotels [5]. When a guest books a room from hotel, room's information and digital key are sent to the guest's mobile phone. As the guest arrives at the hotel, she does not need to wait in check-in queue, instead she directly goes to her room, and opens the door with her NFC-enabled mobile phone. Also checkout process is accomplished either through NFC-enabled TV in the room or through NFC enabled kiosk in the reception. As seen in the demonstration example, combination of NFC with other existing mobile technologies provided new benefits. Customers do not need to wait in the check-in and check-out queue and also they don't need to carry the hotel key with them.

In this paper, after examining all relevant projects and research endeavors, we aim to answer the following research questions:

What are the benefits of currently developed NFC applications?

Which possible applications can be implemented in the future, and what benefits can we expect from them?

In order to find answers to these research questions, we conducted literature review of developed NFC applications, application prototypes, and research studies from both academia and industry. After the review, applications' characteristics and features are discovered. Also an application list that contains all necessary information of applications is created. Several rounds are performed to create the list to make sure that all of the information is accurate. After creating the list we planned roundtable discussions, in which several academicians who are working on mobile technologies, NFC and management attended. After discussions, we decided to investigate applications' benefits and impacts to our life by classifying them based on NFC operating modes which are described in the next section. The reason to classify applications based on operating modes is that, they differentiate how NFC devices communicate with each other. Also as the communication mode changes in an NFC application, usage and benefit of the application change as well. So every mode has its own benefits and usage areas. After analyzing benefits of those applications, possible future scenarios that NFC can influence are discussed.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Since NFC's operating modes are important for this research, section 2 includes the operating modes of NFC in detail. In section 3, we present overview of investigated applications by giving a summarized table. In section 4, we discuss the applications' benefits and future scenarios and propose new research questions. Finally we present our conclusion in section 5.


As stated above, we classified NFC applications based on NFC operating modes. As shall seen later operating modes are vital to characterize applications.

NFC has three operating modes; Peer-to-Peer, Reader/Writer, and Card Emulation. These operating modes are defined by NFC forum [1], which was formed to advance and standardize the use of Near Field Communication technology. In card-emulation mode the data is transferred from mobile-device to NFC-Reader; in reader/writer mode data is transferred is from NFC tag to mobile device or mobile device to NFC tag; and in peer-to-peer mode data is transferred between two NFC compatible devices.

Reader/Writer mode: In the reader/writer mode, NFC devices can read and write data from/to NFC tags and smart cards. NFC device acts as an initiator and passive tag is the target. Passive tag does not need any source of power. Active NFC device creates magnetic inductive coupling and transfers energy to smart card when it gets close enough. After the smart card is powered, communication starts. In this mode of communication the data speed can increase up to 106 Kbit/sec .

Card Emulation mode: In the card emulation mode, NFC device acts as an RFID card and other NFC devices can read data from this NFC device [1]. The advantage of this mode is that there is not any need for NFC tag or a RFID card, and stored information in the NFC device is used for further operations.

Peer-to-Peer mode: In the peer-to-peer mode, two devices can exchange data at link-level. This mode is standardized on the ISO/IEC 18092 standard, and allows data speed up to 424 Kbit/sec [1].


Table 1 presents the applications examined in this paper. The first column indicates which NFC Mode underpins the application (1=Card Emulation Mode, 2=Reader/Writer Mode, 3=Peer-to-peer Mode). Numbers are used in this column instead of names. For the convenience of application survey in this paper, we give a short name to each application (the application name column). The description column presents a short description of the application from the functional and use perspective, and finally the source column is to refer the paper in the references section.


NFC Mode*

Application Name

Application Description



Automotive Environment

Several NFC use cases for an automotive environment are developed. These use cases are such as; Bluetooth Pairing, Wi-Fi Configuration, Exchanging vCards, Personalization (such as audio and air conditioner), User Authentication, User Guide, Car and Spare Part Information, Car Status, E-Ticketing and E-payment.



Smart Universities Ambient

Set of university scenarios are proposed to build smart university environments using NFC technology. Some applied scenarios are identification, payment, smart poster services and resource control.

7, 8



User touches his/her phone to the NFC tag which is located at the entrance of the place. After that, the application which is installed on the mobile phone performs additional processing and receives the ticket. Also user validates and uses her ticket afterwards.



Mobile Coupon

User touches her mobile device to the NFC tag which is embedded into a newspaper or magazine, and then mobile coupon is transferred to mobile device and stored. After then, user can cash this coupon at the cashier again using her mobile device.



Hot in the City (Mobile Social Network)

Making new friends by touching two NFC-enabled mobile devices each other is implemented. Also user can update her location information on facebook by touching the tags. Another feature of Hot in the City is creating events and joining to events.

11, 12



Credit card information is stored into the secure element of NFC-enabled device. NFC-reader reads the credit card information from mobile device and processes the payment.

13, 14


Tapango E‑ticketing

User buys her e-ticket over WWW before the event. If she has an NFC-reader connected to her computer, she can transfer the ticket to her device; otherwise she transfers at the "SYNC points" at event site. After transfer phase, she can pass through entrance terminal by waving her mobile device. Also she can buy foods, drinks at the event site and also can buy credit at the cashier.



Electronic Key

Hotel room's key is transferred to guest's mobile device by SMS before arrival. When the guest arrives to the hotel, she directly goes to the room and opens the door using her mobile phone by avoiding the check-in process.



Health Monitoring System

Users are identified via NFC-enabled mobile devices at their homes and identification information together with health ratings (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate) is sent to the medical system wirelessly to track patients' health ratings.



Context-aware smart spaces

A system prototype is developed in which user is authenticated while entering a smart environment via her NFC-enabled mobile device and also predefined preferences are restored from device to control the environment.



Attendance Control

Students touched their contactless smart cards to NFC-readers or teachers' NFC-enabled mobile phones for attendance control. NFC-enabled mobile phones and NFC-enabled readers are used in reader/writer mode to read students' data from smart cards.



Electronic Check

An electronic check system is developed. E‑check is embedded into an NFC tag and users paid for goods they bought from Internet by e-check.



Meal Ordering for Elderly People

A system is developed in which elderly people ordered meals by touching their NFC-enabled devices to NFC tags.



Meal Services for Elderly People

Meal service for elderly users is developed. Meals are sent to customers by logistics service. Interaction technique adoption is also investigated.



Services for Home Patients

Patients uploaded their patience information such as diastolic blood pressure and heart rate to the hospital's server system from home using NFC-enabled device.

22, 23


Medication Care in Hospitals

Medication of patients is read from NFC tag, and nurses made the medication accordingly. Its main purpose is eliminating wrong medications.



Mobile medical patient tracking and diagnosis system

Patient's ID is saved to her NFC tag which is embedded on her bracelet. Doctors use NFC-enabled mobile phones to read patient data. After treatment, doctor enters disease data to mobile phone and this information is sent to hospital's server.



Supporting Alzheimer patient's daily activities

Activities of Alzheimer patients are supported using NFC technology. In the proposed system, patients and environment is set up with tags. Also each medical staff has NFC-enabled mobile phone. Medical staff saved her observation and any other data to patient's NFC tag and the data carried between medical staff. So each staff acted based on the data that resides in the tag.



Mobile Prescription

Patients get prescriptions from home, avoiding going to the health-care center. In the system, patient touches the tags of the drugs and sends the request to the central server through GPRS and mobile application. Then doctor checks the drugs and approves or changes the medication. New prescriptions are sent to patient with SMS and patient buys the drugs from drugstore by transferring the prescription to drugstore's computer through bluetooth.



NFC based drug ADR detecting

Drugs are detected using NFC-enabled mobile phone and NFC tags embedded on the drugs. After reading the drug information, this information is sent to PIS (Pharmaceutical Information System) to check if the patient is allergenic to that drug to prevent Adverse Drugs Detection(ADR)



Sales Data Management System

A sales data management system is developed. NFC tags are embedded onto products and NFC-enabled devices are used as reader and writer for NFC tags.



Mobile Sales Assistant

Retailers and customers check availability of products by touching their NFC enabled mobile phone to the NFC tags those are embedded at the product.

30, 31


Remote Grocery Shopping

User touches her NFC-enabled mobile phone to tagged items and orders those foods from market online.



Smart Poster

Use of smart posters in a university environment is presented. Users can get information about organizational structure, degrees offered, and departments by touching their NFC-enabled mobile devices to smart posters.



Smart Poster-Web Service

User can specify the movie she wants to see, the theater, the show and the amount of tickets that she wants to buy by touching a poster with an NFC enabled phone. Also user can buy tickets using the Web-Service address stored in an NFC tag.



Smart Poster-Newspaper

User touches the logo of a newspaper with her NFC enabled mobile device and receives news and displays on the phone's browser.



Remote Electronic Voting

Users performed remote electronic voting via their NFC-enabled mobile devices. Identification mechanism is handled by private-keys and pin codes.



Pervasive Services

User touches physical objects to easily activate services at an environment such as calendar application, printer application and mobile phone profile changer.



Touch & Interact

In the developed system, user is able to interact with a large screen by touching it with her mobile device.

38, 39


Multimedia Controller

Advertising catalogue, multimedia player, and slideshow viewer applications are developed. NFC tags stored location of an XML address, and when the application read the address, the services defined in that XML file are started using a developed framework REACHeS.

40, 41


AmI Environment

An Ambient Intelligence environment is offered using NFC technology. In the environment users can achieve many scenarios such as; updating their location, leaving note to others, printing a file from printer.



Pick & Drop

In the proposed system, NFC tags are used as file reference containers and URIs of media files are stored in the tags. When a user touched to a tag with her NFC-enable mobile phone, the URI is transferred to mobile phone and the file is downloaded from the server. Also administrators have right to save URIs to tags and send files to servers. By this way, sharing files between users is achieved



Cross-media Smart Postal System

A cross-media smart postal system is implemented which includes RFID enabled envelops/stamps/parcel packages and NFC enabled mobile handhelds.



Document Copying Control

Copying control of documents and access to digitized documents are implemented by embedding NFC tags onto documents.



Social Networking

A prototype is developed for users to update presence information on social networks.


User touches NFC tag to update status information on Facebook and Twitter.




Users touch NFC tags, which are embedded of the entrance of the places, while entering or leaving a place. Than their location information and UID are sent to the backend server with user's Internet-accessible mobile phone. The client program which is installed on the client's computer checks web server with UID if the user's status is updated. If yes, client program updates users Skype status message with location information.



Encouragement of Outdoor Physical Activities

A system to increase support and encouragement of outdoor physical activities using NFC technology is presented.



Location-based Wiki

An NFC-based infrastructure is developed for gathering location-based information from Wikipedia. Users touched their mobile phones and read local information from Wikipedia system.



Mobile Museum Guide

Visitors can browse tours, download those onto their mobile devices and use them for the exploration of the museum by touching their NFC-enabled devices to smart museum guide.



Tourist Map

Tourists can get information and make additional processing by touching their NFC-enabled mobile phones to the tags on the map posters.



Contact Information Management

Users touch their phones each other and exchange their business cards using NFC technology.



File Transfer

Users can transfer data between NFC-enabled devices by touching each other.


*: 1=Card emulation mode, 2= Read/Write Mode, 3=Peer-to-peer Mode


In this section we discuss the benefits of investigated applications and future scenarios by classifying them into NFC operating modes. As described earlier, the reason to classify applications into NFC mode is that the communication way is different in each NFC mode and these differences make change in benefits and usage areas.


Card Emulation Mode

After analyzing those applications using card emulation mode, the pertaining characteristic of the mode is concerned with eliminating the need for a physical object. Few examples may illuminate this characteristic. If we investigate payment applications [13, 14], the usage of mobile phone eliminates carrying contactless credit, smart cards, or cash. Instead, a user makes payment with her mobile phone. In electronic key application [5], NFC usage eliminated carrying physical key and contactless smart key. As it is used to enter rooms instead of electronic keys, it provides access control. We can also conclude that attendance control [7] also provides access control; in which students must be authenticated to prove attendance to the class. Moreover in ticketing application [9] and mobile coupon application [10], card emulation mode is used while cashing in ticket and mobile coupon. Actually these two processes also gained physical object elimination by eliminating paper-based tickets and coupons. In [15], in addition to ticketing, users are able to buy foods, drinks with their credits. This application also provided elimination of tickets and cash. As a result, most important features of card emulation mode are discovered as elimination of physical objects and providing access control.

Reader/Writer Mode

In reader/writer mode, data stored in an NFC tag is read by an NFC-enabled mobile phone and then that data is used to process further operations. Transferred data can be any type of text, such as a web address, data of an event, or some other data. After transfer operation, the data can be used for many purposes. In the most basic usage, transferred data can be displayed on the screen until user closes the application. Let us discuss by giving some examples. In smart poster application [33], a scenario in a university is developed. In this scenario, smart posters are used to give information to people. In an example scenario, when user touches his NFC-enabled mobile device to NFC-tag on the poster, department staff information is transferred from the tag to the mobile device. Then student can easily find staff's room with eliminating the need to remember room number which is still displayed at mobile device's screen. These processes provide mobility to user, as user can move or find her way, while the needed information still can be read from the screen.

Much more applications using reader/writer mode are developed than other modes. The most important reason for such development is found out that, there are so much interesting and easy to implement use case scenarios that can be developed in reader/writer mode. Also developments and implementations of reader/writer mode applications are relatively easier to implement than others.

As described above, in this mode mobile device has the ability to make additional processing after receiving data from NFC tag. In electronic voting application [36], users voted for student council voting with their NFC-enabled devices upon reading the candidate's data from an NFC tag. In [43], users downloaded multimedia content to their mobile phones upon receiving the corresponding URI from NFC tag.

Moreover, based on the design of the application, this mode is able to provide mobility and to decrease physical effort. Increasing processing power and wireless Internet access of mobile devices also helped on this issue and made this mode more attractive. In [22, 23], patients uploaded their medical information using NFC technology from their homes. In [20], elderly people ordered their meals from their homes. In remote grocery shopping application [32], clients shopped from home by touching their mobile devices to NFC tags that are placed onto items. Before throwing the garbage of food's packet, users touched their mobile devices to tags that are on the item's packet and ordered foods from market.

Peer-to-Peer Mode

Peer-to-peer mode is rare when compared to other modes, though it is studied for device pairing, networking and file transfer operations. In [6], bluetooth pairing is achieved between the mobile phone and the car's hands-free equipment. In [53] users exchanged their business cards by touching their NFC-enabled mobile phones to each other. Also in [11, 12], users can make new friends by touching their mobile devices to other users' devices. It can be said that peer-to-peer mode provides easy data exchange between two devices, however not much work is done in this mode, hence this outcome will not reflect clear findings.

Based on our findings, we think that the prominent mode of NFC is Card Emulation Mode, because NFC brings up two big improvements in this mode; elimination of a physical object and providing access control from mobile device.

When investigating commercially available and in-test applications, we have found that all of the commercial applications are using card emulation mode. These commercially available applications are payment [54, 55], electronic key [5], and ticketing [56]. We can say that currently card emulation mode is the most promising mode of NFC technology, and the fate of the NFC technology is based on how much acceptance those applications will get from users as well as partners such as financial institutions, mobile network operators, and academicians.

Table 2 summarizes discovered benefits of NFC operating modes together with future usage scenarios which will be also discussed next.

Future Usage

Until now, each NFC mode's benefits are discussed based on the developed applications. In this section we want to discuss possible future scenarios using NFC technology. To find out possible future scenarios we categorize future usage areas in terms of operating modes.

Card Emulation Mode

Mobile phones provide mobility to users, however when we investigate card emulation mode, we found out that this mode does not support mobility, instead its aim is to make mobile phone tightly coupled with its users. This can be considered as a challenge to mobile phones' mobility property, but people carry mobile phones with them most of the time, and the coupling of mobile phones with human body actually fits with the usage of mobile phones. One can expect that in near future, there will be the opportunity that people will carry NFC-enabled mobile phones not because of gaining mobility, but performing daily functions. Credit cards, keys, tickets will be embedded into mobile phones. So there will be more opportunities to integrate daily objects into NFC-enabled mobile phones.

Moreover we will be able to eliminate carrying physical objects by embedding that information into NFC-enabled mobile phones and also will be able to use them by mobile phones. Nowadays credit cards, tickets, keys, coupons can be used with NFC-enabled mobile phones, but thinking the possible usage areas excite us. We will be able to store so many objects such as id-cards, passports, finger-prints, driver-licenses. Most of these future developments have issues to solve and need to be researched, but they are able to provide physical object elimination and to increase the integration of mobile phones with human.

As mobile phone becomes a part of human, other opportunities will also arise. Most important opportunity will be using NFC-enabled mobile phones as a memory area for users' data. One of the most concrete examples to this usage is the scenario which stores user's patient info into NFC-enabled mobile phone. Most of the people do not want to share their health information with hospitals or any type of organizations to prevent insurance companies to access that data. So storing patient's information in mobile phone can be a critical issue in that manner. Patients then can give permission to doctors or other people that which information they can access. This would be a potential research matter which brings up research questions such as how to store those patients' disease data at mobile phones, and how users decide about permission to access for health records.

We expect that various scenarios related to storing human-related data will be under investigation. One needs to study underlying privacy and ethical factors for these scenarios.


Card Emulation Mode

Reader/Writer Mode

Peer-to-Peer Mode


1. Physical Object Elimination

2. Access Control

1. Increases mobility

2. Decreases physical effort

3. Ability to be adapted by many scenarios

4. Easy to implement

Easy data exchange between devices

Device pairing

Future Scenarios

1. Integration of id-cards, passports, finger-prints, driver-license

2. Storage area for critical information to provide user's privacy and authorizing people to access those information

Many real-life scenarios can be adapted to NFC in this mode. In all of the scenarios, some data need to be read from an NFC tag, and additional jobs need to be done by NFC-enabled mobile phone.

1.Secure exchange of critical data

2. Gossiping

Reader/Writer Mode

Notice that main benefits of the reader/writer mode are increasing mobility and decreasing physical efforts. Actually these benefits are in accordance mobile phone's mobility properties. As mobile phone and its applications provide mobility and this in turn generally decreases physical efforts. As an example, calling someone from any location provides mobility and eliminates the need to communicate by face to face. So it results in increasing mobility and decreasing physical effort. Moreover with the mobile services usage, e-mail applications are developed for mobile phones and these e-mail applications enable users to read and write e-mails without any geographical restriction. This also has the same effect on mobility and physical effort.

We can see that reader/writer mode supports mobility property of mobile phones. This mode is able to increase mobile phone usage. But we think that it cannot be an actor at NFC technology's future, because it does not add a special property to mobile phone usage.

Another benefit would be that most of the real-life scenarios can be adapted to this mode. It includes transferring data to NFC-enabled mobile phone from a tag and displaying it to user. Moreover mobile phones can make additional processing with transferred data, can store it with increased storage capacity of mobile phones, or can transfer this data to any server on the Internet. These wide properties provide so many scenarios to be adapted easily.

Peer-to-Peer Mode

Main benefit of the peer-to-peer mode is excahnging data easily. When the two users touch their mobile phones each-other, communication starts with their permission. Data exchange between two NFC-compatible devices provides the possibility of secure exchange of critical data and social interaction. Because NFC devices can transfer data in 4 cm, exchanging critical data can be one of the key future applications of this mode. Also people would prefer to exchange critical digital information in such a short distance, but psychological effects of this scenario still need to be studied.

Exchanging critical data using NFC technology seems very secure to end users, this is a psychological advantage. But the security issues need to be considered. For example can communication be hacked from third-party from long distance? What are the privacy issues considering the exchange of critical information? Can one party reach and steal other party's data without permission? These are all research questions and bring new opportunities to researchers.

Social interaction is our currently researched topic about this mode, in which two people can transfer data each other, which is similar to gossiping. People can share desired data with others and again it can be used for many purposes.


This paper explores the very nature of underlying benefits and future usage scenarios of NFC applications. We consider NFC modes as essential characteristics for examining NFC applications. We contend that each NFC operating mode provides different benefits to users and all have different future usage scenarios.

We articulate that card emulation mode eliminates physical objects such as paper-based tickets or magnetic cash and credit cards. This mode is also able to provide an access control mechanism. Moreover this mode integrates mobile phone with human, thus in the future human-related data such as id-cards, passports, and patience data can be integrated into mobile phones, and an authentication mechanism for third parties can be implemented. Also we think that this mode may promote NFC to become an important technology by enabling to store personal private data into mobile phones. By this way, users will not share any private information with third parties; instead they will store that private information in their mobile phones, and authorize people to access it. So users will have the chance to increase their privacy.

NFC's another operating mode, reader/writer mode, provides various benefits to users based on usage scenarios. This mode's applications are easy to implement and most important benefits are increasing mobility and decreasing physical effort spent by users.

The third operating mode, peer-to-peer mode, is not sufficiently investigated and it appears that this mode is primarily used for exchanging data easily between two compatible NFC devices. Future usage scenarios of this mode may be exchanging critical data between mobile devices, because exchanging digital information by touching two devices feel secure for users.

Our study provides an overview on the benefits of currently developed NFC applications by classifying them into NFC modes. Future scenarios are derived from the benefits of these applications and introduced new research questions. We believe that this study will guide for future research areas of NFC and future developments of NFC applications.