RFID is mainly used for tracking and identification purposes, i.e. in bicycles to prevent theft, in animals to track movement/migration patterns, in dogs/cats to identify and track location, in credit cards to access applications, in key chains to locate keys in the event of misplacement. This database is made available to law enforcement agencies, repair shops and dealers. Similar to NFC, RFID products are also prone to cyber-theft, e.g. a cyber-thief can walk past you in a mall and know the exact contents of your bag. Privacy concerns have also arisen in regards to the widespread adoption of RFID technology, which gives away the locations of users. This relatively new widespread adoption also means that there are no concrete industry standards to govern the use of RFID. In the near future, RFID technology will potentially be combined with other applications to expand its features and functionalities, e.g. to combine RFID tags with sensors that track vital signs information on top of location tracking.
NFC or Near-field-communication is mainly used for short-distance communications between two devices within a few centimeters (up to 10) apart with low data rates of only a few Kbits per second. The technology is evolved from Radio Frequency Identification Technology or RFID in short and the most power-efficient amongst the four wireless technologies featured in this article. Due to its short range of coverage, NFC is commonly used to process micro transactions and short exchanges of information, i.e. in convenience stores, public transportation systems and electronic devices. Coils built into NFC devices allows for the generation of power which initiates data transmission over the radio waves to make these exchanges possible.
NFC is imbued in credit cards to allow for contactless payments, i.e. Visa pay-wave, MasterCard pay-pass. More recently, NFC is also imbued in smartphones that allow for a digital wallet, i.e. Google Wallet and Android Beam. In the near future, NFC will potentially be imbued in all the cards found in your wallet, be it library cards, business cards and even loyalty cards. Outside of e-commerce, NFC can also be found in the digital entertainment world. For example, Google’s do-it-yourself VR Kit or Google Cardboard as well as the ‘check-in’ function utilized by Nintendo’s Amiibo, bringing beloved Nintendo characters ‘to-life’ so to speak.
With all the features and ease of use that NFC offers, the technology seems irresistible to use on a regular basis. However, watch out for people who are out to steal your personal information that includes credit card details, addresses, contacts and account details, all with one well-executed swipe near your NFC enabled product. These ‘NFC thieves’ are able to steal essential information with a custom NFC scanner which is activated when they bring the scanner close to your purse/wallet/bag. A good way to deter these thefts is by storing your NFC products in a sleeve that deflects radio frequencies.
If you think that Wi-Fi is short for wireless-fidelity, well think again! The term ‘Wi-Fi’ does not actually stand for anything and is thought to be a play on the term ‘Hi-Fi’ or high-fidelity. Quickly becoming the norm in internet connectivity, many now prefer WiFi in contrast to a LAN (local area network) line due to its superior offering of portability. Also, WiFi is compatible across all devices including operating systems and gaming systems. In order to connect to a WiFi network, you need to install a wireless adapter. To give you an idea of how your device connects to the internet via WiFi, here is a basic visual flowchart.