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January 12, 2021 2 min read

Wireless data acquisition is essential nowadays. We owe many of that to RFID and NFC based systems, technologies that use electromagnetic waves to identify and locate objects or living beings. These transmitter-receiver technologies enable us to take things like paying out cash at ATMs or checking tickets on buses, for granted. RFID and NFC, both work in the same way, but what exactly is the difference between them?

RFID

RFD stands for radio-frequency Identification. In this process an object can be identified and localized with the help of low-power radio waves. The object is provided with a transponder, which is marked with a code. A reader serves as a transmitter for electromagnetic waves. The radiation supplies the transponder with energy. Now the transmitter can read the identification of the transponder. If the electromagnetic field is too far away, the transponder is not supplied with energy and the code cannot be decoded. For example, bank cards are equipped with an RFID transponder. The code of the transponder is read by a transmitter which is built in the ATM, to retrieve the information about the owner.  RFID technology is generally used in logistics, but also finds use in many other areas. 

NFC

Near Field Communication is not only similar to RFID but also based on it. In contrast to RFID, NFC communication is not one-sided, meaning that data can be transmitted in both directions. The code of the transponder can not only be read but can also be rewritten. NFC systems work by means of coupled coils that use electromagnetic induction to generate an electromagnetic field which is used for data transmission. Up to now, NFC systems have been used primarily in the micro-payments sector, but they are also built into smartphones to enable cardless payments. 

Dangers of RFID AND NFC

Modern day bag-snatchers have found ways to use these technologies to steal data from credit cards without having to physically interact with their victim. Amounts of up to 200 dollars disappear unnoticed from the account of the victim, who can only discover the theft much too late. To prevent access to the credit card with transmitter devices, some secure methods are still viable. An RFID card for your wallet or an aluminum slim wallet is sufficient for this. Aluminum or other metals absorb the electromagnetic radiation, so that the cards in your wallet cannot be read.


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