A succinct explanation of Near Field Communications (NFC) and NFC tag uses.
NFC (Near Field Communication) tags, also known as smart tags, are a type of RFID tag designed for short distance reading. NFC tags have a semiconductor chip with an attached antenna. The antenna is used to excite the chip when the reader is nearby and to communicate with the reader. The chip contains a unique ID commonly called the Unit ID (UID) or Chip Serial Number (CSN). Most chips also contain memory storage that can be used to store and recall data for user applications, commonly called UserData (UD).
NFC tags are small and inexpensive for use in a wide variety of solutions such as tickets for cruises, sporting and concert events, boat ferries, wristband tags for event attendance, ski lift passes, smart tags are available for metal use for tagging pipes, fire extinguishers and other metal objects, key fobs for entry points, prescription bottles, and ruggedized labels meant for industrial uses.
Because they do not require a power source, NFC tags are called passive tags. Due to magnetic induction, the NFC tags source of power comes from the device that reads them. When a reader gets close to a tag, energy from the reader is transferred to the antenna which activates the chip allowing the NFC reader to capture the chip serial number and read/write the user memory of the tag.
NFC tags have many types, commonly type 1 through type 4.
Type 1 and Type 2 tags can be written to multiple times. These tags can also be permanently locked or encrypted so that no one can manipulate the data. Type 3 and Type 4 tags can only be written to once, like a CD or a DVD, and they lack the security of types 1 and 2.
Tags with higher memory and stronger antennas are larger in physical size. Generally, tag size ranges from just a centimeter or two to a few inches.¹
NFC Type 1 Tag
Type 1 Tag is based on ISO/IEC 14443A. Tags are read and re-write capable; users can configure the tag to become read-only. Memory availability can be many kilobytes* depending on the chip model and manufacturer.
NFC Type 2 Tag
Type 2 Tag is based on ISO/IEC 14443A. Tags are read and re-write capable; users can configure the tag to become read-only. Memory availability can be many kilobytes* depending on the chip model and manufacturer.
NFC Type 3 Tag
Type 3 Tag is based on the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) X 6319-4, also known as FeliCa. Tags are pre-configured at manufacturing to be either read and re-writable, or read-only. Memory availability is variable, theoretical memory limit is 1MByte* per service.
NFC Type 4 Tag
Type 4 Tag is fully compatible with the ISO/IEC 14443 standard series. Tags are pre-configured at manufacturing to be either read and re-writable, or read-only. The memory availability is variable, up to 32 Kbytes per service; the communication interface is either Type A or Type B compliant.²
*Note: reading & writing large memory can take a prohibitively amount of time for many applications.
|Sticker tags are RFID tags with a self-adhesive backing. Tags come in a variety of shapes and sizes and may be purchased in rolls or strips. Often used for inventory.
|A badge or identification card containing an RFID chip. May come blank or can be customized with logo and/or image. Often used for work, school, and memberships.
|On metal RFID tags are designed specifically to work on metal and surfaces with similar characteristics as metal. These are commonly used for industrial and enterprise applications.
|PROX tags are defined as a “contactless” smart card or disc tag read by an RFID Reader. Can be active or passive. Widely used for security or access control. PROX name comes from the word “Proximity” as these are normally used in badges for physical access.
|An animal tag is a plastic or metal tag commonly placed on the ear of livestock. Used to identify, track, and monitor the animal. May be flag, disc, or button shaped. Usually read by an RFID wand or RFID antenna. Some animal tags are embedded under the skin commonly used in pets like dogs and cats.
|Jewelry tags are ideal for inventory and tracking of small items; jewelry tags range from paper-like stickers, to plastic tags with punch holes, and more
|Wristband tags come in numerous colors and styles. From silicone to paper to fabric, from disposable to reusable, the customization options for these tags are countless.
|An “inlay” is the working part of an NFC tag. The inlay is the chip with a connected antenna (commonly aluminum, copper, silver) bonded to a pet material that keeps the antenna and chip in place. The inlay is typically covered by durable material like a plastic badge, but inlays are used in thousands of applications, even poured in to concrete and built into walls. Inlays can be provided “dry” (no adhesive) or “wet” (with adhesive). Wet inlays can have 1-sided or two-sided adhesive and most commonly can come in rolls with one or two release liners.