Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Difference between NFC and Bluetooth

We have been getting many question regarding communication system to know what NFC is and how it’s different than Bluetooth. Keeping that in mind we will try to explain the differences between NFC and Bluetooth starting with a brief history then moving onto their current status and future. We will also mention their Advantage and Disadvantage and try to make it as understandable as possible.

NFC (Near Field Communication):

Radio frequency identification (RFID) was the base upon which Near Field Communication (NFC) started back in the 80’s. This technology permitted the user to direct radio information to a receiver where it was recognized. The initial form of this technology was used for tracking and security purposes at retail locations. As time progressed so did this technology, and the two strong companies NXP semiconductors and Sony came to invent NFC or “Near Field Communication” in 2002. In 2010 this technology evolved and got incorporated in Android smartphones.

Basically NFC is a data transfer technology that works at a short distance or another way to put it is that it’s a sort of extremely short range wireless-communication. By a process called inductive coupling two compatible devices can transfer the data in the form of beam. For NFC to work both devices should be at distance of no more than 4 centimeters for data transfer to effectively take place.

In fact in one of Samsung’s ads for their Galaxy S 4 smartphone they showed this as a very neat and nifty function where pictures and video were transferred by simply touching two Galaxy S 4’s together.

As NFC only works at a short distance it minimizes the risk of data theft, and this process is considerably faster as compared to Bluetooth.

This technology is now being used to promote payment via mobile, in the future NFC will used in payment cards; these payments cards will allow the consumer to pay for items with just a touch. It is also expected that more and more smartphone manufacturing companies will enable NFC functionality on their devices.

• Convenience: It is intuitive and convenient. A simple touch is needed for communication.
• Versatility: Adaptable to almost every situation like it can be used in bank cards, smartphones and video game consoles.
• Security: It reduces chances of data theft since the transfer distance is so limited.

• Requires Agreement: NFC cannot be used without having a prior agreement with the company.
• Compatibility: As this technology is new so there is little number of phones that is compatible with this technology.
• Costly: This is an expensive technology, many companies have avoided using it just because of the risk to investment.


Bluetooth is a very well known and globally used wireless communication technology that has been in use for many years. Bluetooth came in to being sometime in 1994, it was to be an alternative to wired data cables the RS-232 to be exact. The root of this technology as is with NFC is radio transmission; basically radio transmissions that could be used to transfer data over short distances.

Since its inception this technology has been built into a number of devices such as mobile phones, laptops, medical devices and also in many electronic gadgets it enables the mentioned devices to interact with peripherals and accessories wirelessly. Some accessories which use Bluetooth are wireless headsets, keyboards, mice, and cameras.

The average distance over which Bluetooth wireless communication and date transfer take place varies from a couple of cm to around 100 meters on some devices.

The future of Bluetooth looks strong as it has weathered many years and has evolved consistently. One of the drawbacks of Bluetooth was that it consumes more energy during transfer of data as compared to the NFC and is slower as well, at the time of writing of this article a Bluetooth version is being worked on that would require less power and be much quicker.

• Less complicated: As this technology has been around for quite some time, so many users know how to use it and are comfortable with it.
• Inexpensive: This technology is quite cheap and so companies prefer it as they can easily incorporate it in to their many devices.
• Upgradeable: Bluetooth technology is upgradeable and corporate's can easily upgrade the versions of Bluetooth.

• Security: As it uses the long distance for the transfer of data, there is a risk of theft of data by eavesdroppers.
• Viruses: As it can be installed on the mobile phones, so it is disposed to viruses.
• Limitation: At a time it can only connects the two devices for communication. It does not enable communication between more than two users a time.

*Final Remarks:

NFC: A very fast way of wireless communication, data transfer is usually very secure, but it is expensive, not widely used, and communication distance is very limited.

Bluetooth: A comparatively cheap way of wireless communication, widely used and accepted, and can work over a greater distance as compared to NFC but is slow, consumes much more energy, is susceptible to hacks and viruses.