NFC and Bluetooth

What is NFC and how is it related to Bluetooth?

Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC) are similar in that they allow two devices to transfer data quickly, with a high level of security, over a short distance. NFC’s data range is usually less than 2 inches (4 cm) – you must hold the devices very close together, or they may even have to be touching. Bluetooth’s range is on average about 30 feet (30m). Bluetooth also transfers data at a faster rate.

Bluetooth may appear to be the better technology, having an advantage in both sped and distance, both each has advantages and disadvantages, and can work together to meet users’ needs.

NFC consumes little power when compared to standard Bluetooth technology, and in fact may consume no power at all. For example, unpowered NFC tags may be found in clothing or any number of consumer products, while the tag is unpowered, the NFC reader must use power to collect data from the tag, though Bluetooth Low Energy is close to NFC in its power efficiency.

NFC is also very easy to use. Where Bluetooth requires users to manually set up connections between smartphones and takes several seconds, NFC connects automatically in a fraction of a second, almost instantaneously. Even though NFC devices must be very close to each other to use NFC technology, it is faster and easier to set up than a Bluetooth connection. NFC is also very effective in crowded locations to prevent interference caused when other devices are present and trying to communicate.

The latest development in Bluetooth technology, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart, is targeted at low power consumption and uses even less power than NFC. As the technology increases, Bluetooth and NFC technology may continue to work together, relying on each other to help users meet their data transmission needs.

In the real world we don’t have to choose one over the other but can enjoy the benefits of both working synergistically and seamlessly in the same device!

Many Bluetooth device manufacturers are incorporating both NFC and Bluetooth technology in a single device, sometimes using NFC to setup the Bluetooth connection. For example, you simple touch two NFC enabled devices and a Bluetooth connection is established – touch your phone and Bluetooth speaker and then continue playing music from your phone even though the speaker may beep to 30 feet (10 m) away.