Near Field Communication

What is Near Field Communication (NFC)?

Near Field communication (NFC) is a wireless means of communication that allows sharing of information.

The interaction can either be:

  • a two way exchange of information between two NFC-enabled devices;
  • a one way exchange of information where one device receives information from an NFC tag at close range.

Typically, at least one device will be an NFC-enabled smart phone, but any object with an NFC chip can share information. Most recently, Google began a trial of NFC payment with Google Wallet. Google's implicit endorsement of this is likely to make NFC become more common if this trial is successful. Not all smart phones are equipped for NFC, but the numbers are likely to increase if NFC becomes mainstream.

What can NFC do?

NFC allows exchange of information via NFC chips. You can:

  • send one directional information when someone reads a chip on a poster, sign or other stationary object;
  • perform a transaction where information such as payment information is exchanged.
  • NFC has been widely used in Japan for a few years, mainly for retail transactions and transportation services such as ticket purchases..

Why use NFC?

NFC will offer museums the potential for:

  • providing additional interpretive information (via text, directing people to a URL, providing a telephone number, etc.);
  • easy members' admission to the museum;
  • quick ticket payment;
  • swipe payment in the gift shop; and
  • awarding 'frequent visitors' who check in with NFC.

NFC is not mainstream yet, but when it is, museums will be able provide a benefit for members (bypassing lineups), or if offered generally, reduced time in ticket lines.

Who is using NFC?

Commercial applications are becoming more common, and will continue to become more common if the Google wallet trial becomes successful and NFC-enabled machines are rolled out to more merchants. Earlier this year, Starbucks considered using NFC payment, but decided to wait until NFC-equipped phones become more commonplace Paypal also recently announced NFC payment transactions.

In the museum world, there have been some trials with respect to one-way information provision. These trials have often been in cooperation with a company providing and testing the technology.

The following tourism projects use NFC:

  • In Caceres, Spain, tourists can borrow NFC enabled phones and access information about the city's sites and receive discount coupons.
  • The Pompidou Centre in Paris is lending teens smartphones to access and share information via NFC.
  • Nice, France, in collaboration with Citizi has launched an NFC app that allows users to receive information about historic monuments.
  • SmartTouch European Project is a project that tested NFC in several locations.

What are the considerations?

Many of these technologies for smart phones are developing so rapidly that a museum will not want to invest too much in one particular technology when there are others that provide similar services. Quick Response (QR) codes and NFC can provide similar opportunities for content provision, although NFC seems to be the next development in terms of mobile payment. As mobile payment becomes more common commercially, it will become cheaper and feature more in the museum world, as card companies will begin shipping NFC-enabled card scanners.

The following paper describes creating an NFC smart poster; museums could start playing with the technology to provide additional interpretive information.

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This resource was published by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). For comments or questions regarding this content, please contact CHIN directly. To find other online resources for museum professionals, visit the CHIN homepage or the Museology and conservation topic page on Canada.ca.

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