RFID Vs NFC: Decoding Their Differences.

Have you ever stopped to wonder about the invisible threads connecting the devices we use every day? Well, if you have a curious mind, you are likely to have researched on this and I bet RFID and NFC are some of the techniques you encountered. Both acronyms are thrown around quite a bit, but what exactly sets them apart? And is there any common ground between these enchanting technologies?

Underneath, we attempt to unravel the striking differences that distinguish these elaborate technologies intending to help you grasp their respective strengths.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a non-physical technique used to relay information. It relies on smart tags, which are attached to objects like products in stores or animals on a farm. The smart tags work in collaboration with RFID readers, which provide power and receive the relayed identification data. Once the reader receives the tag’s identification number, it can do all sorts of things with it.

For this reason, RFID is prominently exploited in different tracking exploits. Depending on the specific use scenario, It can reserve the information, or send it to a computer. In certain systems, it can trigger a specific action. For example, in a store, the reader can be programmed to alert a backend system, that a particular item needs to be restocked.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)


To begging with, let us expand NFC. NFC, when expanded, connotes Near-Field Communication. It is a technology renowned for conveying information wirelessly between linked gadgets across short ranges. One of the principal exploits of NFC is captured excellently in interactions between smartphones. Another great example is the communication between electronic finance cards and payment machines. It is like having a secret language that only devices equipped with NFC can understand.

Shoppers with NFC credit cards can breezily wave their card at a payment machine rather than having to line up for minutes. However, NFC can do more than just payments. It can also be used to transfer files, share information like contacts or website links, or even connect to other devices like wireless speakers or headphones.

Figure 2 NFC contactless payment.

Advantages of RFID.

● Simple and Convenient.

RFID is easy to implement and it makes life easier by enabling and easing the process of tracking items. For instance, imagine you’re at a library, hunting for a specific book. Instead of frantically searching through shelves, the librarian can use an RFID reader to quickly locate the book as long as it has an RFID tag.

● Eased Inventory Keeping.

RFID is a champ at managing inventories efficiently. Inventory control can be pain-free if one can leverage efficient technologies like RFID. RFID can substitute manual stock counting with RFID tagging, which is faster and quite error-proof. This will save the staff time and effort that come with manual counting. Grocery stores, for instance, can keep track of milk or bread automatically, so they never run out without anyone noticing.

● Real-Time Visibility.

Every product can get tagged, allowing manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to follow its journey throughout the whole process. With this visibility, RFID can help spot delays and reduce theft.

● Reduced Theft.

Not only does RFID make things easy, but it also boosts security. With RFID, you can say goodbye to lost products or objects. In recent years, we have seen access control systems shift to RFID-enabled badges. So, employees can just tap their badges to gain entry – simple and secure. Additionally, RFID tags can act as alarm bells that boost the security of products and equipment.

With RFID, unsanctioned movement of items can be detected promptly, triggering alarms that alert security personnel.

RFID boosts security

● Streamlined Payments.

I am sure you have heard about contactless payment. Well, RFID is one of the key technologies behind contactless payment. Picture this, you’re at a music festival or a football match, and instead of fumbling around with cash, you just tap your RFID wristband on the payment terminal to purchase a snack or drink. With RFID, waiting in long lines or dealing with complicated payment methods are problems of the past.

● Enhanced Healthcare Services.

Hospitals can tag medical equipment and supplies to easily track usage, expiration dates, and maintenance schedules. This prevents errors, ensures timely replacements, and keeps patient safety at the top of the game. Plus, RFID tags can accurately identify patients, reducing the risk of medication mix-ups or other mistakes.

Figure 3 RFID chip.

The upside of NFC.

● Effortless.

NFC allows you to perform various tasks quickly and effortlessly. For example, when you are shopping for basic amenities at a crowded local store, you can beat the long queues by simply flashing your NFC debit card across the self-checkout kiosk. You do not have to carry cash or swipe your card.

● Secure and Safe.

Data security is one of the most challenging setbacks facing wireless communication technologies. However, with NFC, data interception is highly unlikely given that a sneaky cybercriminal would need close contact with you to get half a chance of intercepting your data. Additionally, the sensitive information reserved in your NFC card or device can be encrypted, making it impossible for even the most abled hackers to gain unauthorized access.

● Versatile.

NFC is a highly dependable technology with applications that transcend beyond cashless payments. It has extensive applications, for example, you can use NFC to pair your smartphone with your Bluetooth speaker or wireless headphones. With NFC, you will not be prompted to enter manual pairing codes or follow lengthy setup procedures.

Moreover, with a little more adjustment, your NFC tags could be enhanced to accommodate more complex functionalities. For example, you can use your NFC tag to easily launch your favorite navigation app.

NFC is a highly dependable technology with applications

● Compatibility.

Today, NFC is growing in popularity as a technology that makes NFC easily accessible and quite versatile. We are seeing more and more gadgets in our lives that have NFC capabilities and bring convenience to our lives. This translates to compatibility with numerous, day-to-day devices such as smartphones, Bluetooth speakers, and laptops.

This is good news for the ordinary user given that you can incorporate NFC into your favored gadget. For example, some public transportation systems allow you to use NFC cards or smartphones for ticketing, making commuting more convenient.

● Information Sharing.

Let’s say you meet someone and want to exchange contact details. Instead of typing out names, contacts, and email addresses, you can simply use NFC cards or tags to instantly share the information. It’s especially handy during conferences or networking events where you meet many new people.


If you search for wireless communication on your browser, RFID and NFC will surely be at the top of your search results. You may have heard of these technologies, but what sets them apart?


Distinguishing RFID from NFC.

Since RFID and NFC are both subsets of wireless communication, a vast majority of people tend to think they are the same. The truth, however, is that they are distinct in a number of ways, explaining their varying scopes of application.

● Read Range.

RFID readers can intercept data from tags even in the absence of physical contact or proximity. However, the optimal read range for RFID is determined by the type of RFID system deployed. The longer read range of RFID is exhibited in storage rooms that have RFID readers installed at specific locations. Items tagged with active tags can be scanned across several meters, saving labor and time. NFC, on the other hand, functions optimally over shorter distances as its name suggests.

For instance, when making a payment using an NFC debit card, the card must be within several centimeters of the payment machine. This is an example of NFC technology with a limited read range, ensuring secure transactions.

● Transfer Speed.

RFID systems primarily focus on storing and retrieving information, which means that the transfer speed is relatively slower. This characteristic is suitable for applications such as tracking items, where the priority lies in collecting data rather than transmitting it rapidly.

Conversely, the transfer speeds of NFC tend to be much faster. For example, when using NFC to transfer data from one phone to another, you will notice that it is quite fast.

Figure 4 NFC tag.

● Power Requirements.

Most enterprises tend to employ passive tags. These tags are powered by the energy emitted from the RFID reader, making them cost-effective and ideal for applications where frequent tag replacement is not feasible. In contrast, NFC devices, such as smartphones, have active components that necessitate a power source, usually a built-in battery.

● Applications.

RFID and NFC have distinct areas of specialization. This means that their suitability for specific functions differs at certain levels. RFID technology dominates tracking, access restriction, and livestock tracking. For instance, RFID is highly prominent in retail stores because it facilitates product location leading to reduced losses. With NFC, cashless payment is one of its strongest exploits.

This is because of the security it guarantees. For example, you can unlock your home by simply waving your NFC key fob or controlling your smart thermostat by tapping your phone on an NFC tag placed near the entrance.

● Security Features.

Security is a critical aspect of any wireless technology. In recent years, astute measures have been incorporated into RFID systems to avert data theft. For instance, the introduction of RFID-blocking wallets is a measure that has greatly shrunk cases of data interception. Encrypting sensitive data has also made it impossible for data thieves to access info in RFID tags.

However, the longer read range of RFID tags can pose a higher risk of interception. With NFC, data interception is a rare occurrence. This is because NFC is intentionally engineered to serve close proximity functions. NFC also relies on tamper-resistant chips, which provide ultimate security making NFC suitable for mobile payments.

Similarities Between NFC and RFID.

● Wireless Communication.

The primary working principle of RFID and NFC is centered on non-physical or wireless communication. These technologies use radio frequency signals.

● Tag and Reader Architecture.

One of the most visible traits shared by NFC and RFID is the presence of transponders and interrogators. Although the composition of these apparatuses may differ, they tend to serve a similar purpose.

● Data Exchange Protocol.

Both RFID and NFC use a similar data exchange protocol called “load modulation.” This entails tags utilizing energy signaled by a reader to transmit preloaded information.

● Security Features.

Both technologies can support secure communication through encryption and authentication mechanisms. This ensures that data exchanged between tags and readers remain private and protected from unauthorized access.

Figure 5 RFID and NFC.

Common Misconceptions About RFID and NFC.

1. RFID and NFC are the Same Things.

The resemblances exhibited by RFID and NFC technologies do not mean they are similar technologies, even though one can argue they are born from the same cloth. Despite both of them relying on radio waves, we have seen the key differences that distinguish them before.

2. RFID and NFC Can Be Used to Track People Secretly.

This is a common misconception, but it’s not entirely accurate. Certain functionalities of both RFID and NFC require the user’s input. For example, for your NFC card to be read by a payment scanner, you must tap it or bring it close to the reader. So, in most applications, these technologies do not allow for the secret tracking of individuals.

3. RFID and NFC are not Secure.

Anyone can access my information. Well, this could not be further from the truth. Security concerns are valid for any technology, but both RFID and NFC can be made secure with proper implementations. Let us take, for instance, an interaction between two devices via NFC. Authorization by the owners of the devices must be given and this locks out potential unauthorized access.

4. RFID and NFC can Cause Problems for Electronic Devices.

RFID and NFC technologies have limited frequency ranges. This means they cannot disrupt electronic devices whose location is outside their read range. When implemented properly, they should not interfere with other electronic devices, such as cell phones or Wi-Fi routers.

To avert any potential interferences, kindly adhere to the regulations and guidelines provided during purchase when implementing these technologies.

5. RFID and NFC can Make Long-Range Interactions.

This is highly misleading given that we have already established that RFID and NFC are generally designed for short-range communication. As such, one should not liken RFID and NFC to GPS, which can facilitate long-distance tracking by utilizing satellite signals.

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