Mobile Development

Beyond Payments: Example Uses for NFC Tags

people sitting on a couch in a room activated by NFC tags

X min read

4.4.2023

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How Are Industries Adopting NFC in 2023? 

NFC technology has been around for more than a decade, steadily growing in adoption.

NFC solved a major pain point — providing secure contactless payment systems for mobile payment processing. As less digitalized businesses saw the contactless potential, they started looking for new ways to use NFC in their everyday affairs.

NFC is useful even for businesses operating in conventional industries. 

NFC in retail 

The retail sector has been using NFC for contactless mobile payments. But NFC in retail has moved beyond just a payment method. 

Retailers are using NFC tags for sharing product information, offering discounts, in-store marketing campaigns, etc. 

NFC in healthcare 

NFC-based SOS features are now standard on many smartphones. One can scan a smartphone to know the medical history, raise an SOS alarm for a person involved in an accident or in case of an emergency.

Also, NFC tags on sealed medical packages help doctors and caregivers check dosage info and prescriptions using their smartphones. 

NFC in banking and finance

Banks and financial institutions are using NFC beyond payments. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Android Pay, and other NFC-enabled mobile wallets are just the tip of an iceberg in the banking sector.

NFC tags are easily recyclable, reducing the use of non-degradable plastic cards. Many financial institutions are also using NFC tags as keys to lockers and deposit boxes for customers.

NFC in travel

NFC tags can be used to check in at specific locations. To support the customer experience various venues, NFCs are used to embed links to menus or other important information, especially in places and contexts where QR won't work. Imagine visiting a restaurant, tapping your phone on an NFC tag at the entrance, and instantly accessing the menu on your phone without having to touch a physical menu. This technology can be particularly useful for travelers.

NFC in sport activities and events

Because of their utility and NFC tags, work well in sports like orienteering, where athletes can use their smartphones instead of often very expensive equipment and tracking systems to access information about their location, to confirm their presence at control points, or to time their effort. Such use of NFC tags in sport events can be especially useful in places where GPS doesn't work, like in a dense forest.

NFC-assisted escape rooms

NFC technology is effective at activating automation in sequences in escape rooms. For example, an NFC tag can be placed in a certain location, and when the player taps their phone on it, it triggers a mechanism that opens a door or reveals a clue.

NFC for employee control systems

Instead of relying on manual log entries, NFC tags can be used to track the movements of employees such as cleaners or security personnel. The system records when the employee was present in a specific location at a specific time, making it easier to account for employee performance and movement.

Best NFC Use Cases and App Examples 

NFC has been integrated in several mobile apps, especially during COVID-19. Here are some of the best uses of NFC tags in mobile apps: 

NFC-based travel and transportation apps

NFC has reinvented the archaic practices that have been in place for the better part of the last century. The travel, tourism, and transportation industries are rapidly rolling out NFC-based apps and contactless ticketing solutions.

Airlines and airport authorities are experimenting with NFC boarding passes, and public transport systems have shifted to NFC-powered ticketing apps.

Commuters are no longer required to buy a paper ticket to access bus, metro, tram, or other public transport systems. They can use NFC tags embedded in smart cards or smartphones for contactless payments across public transport systems

NFC-powered public transportation systems are operating in several major cities — New Delhi (India), Nice (France), Beijing (China), Seoul (Korea), etc.

Restaurants, bars, and popular tourist spots are also using NFC stickers and tags for information exchange. Hotels are using NFC-based smart locks for keyless entry to rooms. Tourists and customers can use an NFC-powered mobile app to get more info, read reviews, find the best deals, get entry to an area/room, and post reviews. 

NFC-based events and entertainment apps

NFC apps allow venue owners, organizers, and artists to comply with local social distancing mandates, sell tickets, promote contactless payments, and ensure minimal contact. 

NFC simplifies ticket delivery and venue access for locations like theaters and concert halls. People use NFC-enabled devices and smartphones to validate their entry — at sporting events, theme parks, concerts, conferences, or a live show.  

SafeTix by Ticketmaster uses NFC technology to enable people to use their mobile phones as entry tickets. The company is digitizing tickets for big-league sporting events like NFL, concerts for stars like Ed Sheeran, among other events. 

NFC-powered Event Ticket by TicketMaster. Source: SafeTix

NFC-based security and access control apps

NFC tags can streamline access control and security protocols. Companies are using NFC to upgrade their old access management systems. NFC tags can be embedded into mobile phones, wearables, wrist bands, and key chains to identify team members, visitors, and workers within office campuses.

HR teams can use NFC-enabled apps to track work hours and team attendance without being intrusive.

An NFC-based access control system like AEOS by Nedap brings systems, electronic devices, smartphones, and people on the same network. Modern offices can use this solution to facilitate and track movement, provide access to conference rooms, cubicles, or floors.

NFC-based automation apps

NFC tags can automate homes, offices, buildings, and even vehicles with IoT networks. NFC apps can be used to configure device operations, share WiFi passwords securely, and control a computer system remotely.

Businesses can use a blank smart tag and download an NFC app like NFC Tools from Google Play Store or App Store to create gestures. You can easily program NFC tags using the app. Apple AirTags also work like programmable NFC tags. Here’s what all you can automate when you program NFC tags:

  • Activate/deactivate a process/system
  • Streamline autonomous manufacturing operations 
  • Launch an app or open a website URL 
  • Shar sensitive information like social media credentials securely 
  • Open doors and access areas within a building 
  • Send emergency messages (SOS) or call a number 
  • Configure a wireless Internet connection and share WiFi password

NFC tags can also power smart locks and work as a keyless solution to access apartments, cars, and hotel rooms. Many hotels are now using NFC-enabled smart locks as an alternative to plastic keycards. Guests use their own smartphones instead of plastic keycards to unlock hotel rooms. This helps hotels follow safety and hygiene protocols. Plus, hotels ditching plastic keycards for NFC can reduce plastic waste.

NFC enables keyless entry and powers IoT-based automation systems. Source: NewAtlas 

NFC-based wellness and fitness apps 

Wearable tech is heavily dependent on NFC tags for fitness-related information exchange. Fitness apps collect data from wearables and track sleep patterns, calories burnt, heart rate, and other metrics in real-time.

All major fitness bands use NFC as an underlying tech to improve user experience and become a part of daily life.

MI Band NFC with gesture-based workout schedule feature. Source: Android Police

MI Band 4 by Xiaomi supports contactless mobile payments and configurable gestures to create a workout schedule, play music, set an alarm, etc.

NFC has other use cases for fitness and healthcare apps, too. Caregivers can monitor patients’ vitals and ensure a safe delivery of genuine drugs. Prescriptions can also be stored in NFC tags.

Many pharmaceutical companies and institutes have started using NFC-powered smart drug labels that store a medicine’s expiry date, dosage information, authenticity information, etc.

Tapp is a smart medicine strip that stores prescription data, medicine information, and dosage schedule. Caregivers and family members can use the Tapp app to set reminders so that no patient misses medication.

NFC-powered strip that reminds patients to take their medication. Source: Yanko Design


What More NFC Can Do: Exciting Ideas for Your Business

NFC has a lot more interesting applications than just the standard deets mentioned above. Here are some offbeat ideas to use NFC tags for your business:

NFC for marketing and promotions

NFC-enabled marketing posters are used by brands, globally. These posters and advertisements allow viewers to use an NFC device to access an app, web page, or any special offer.

Companies are using NFC for floating loyalty programs, bringing people closer, and targeting a specific audience profile.

Look at Nike, for example. To increase sales and customer engagement, Nike launched NFC-enabled jerseys in 2017. People had to tap on the jersey's tag with their phones to get all the updates. These jerseys allowed their customers to access the latest match highlights, scores, stats, and exclusive content from the brand or favorite players.

Nike’s NFC-enabled jersey was a genius strategy to engage the core target audience. Source: TechCrunch

KFC also used NFC to enhance its brand identity using smart billboards and posters.

Whenever someone tapped the poster using a smartphone, they got the latest deals, offers, and a thank you message for choosing KFC over other options.

KFC’s NFC-enabled marketing campaign. Source: RFIDLabel

NFC for brand protection and verifying authenticity 

NFC can help luxury brands, pharma, and food companies deal with the problem of counterfeits. NFC tag stickers can be configured with verification links and validation codes to check the authenticity of a product.

NFC-based product authenticity app protects users from duplicate goods. Source: Orygene

Mobile apps such as Orygene can scan products with an NFC tag, show product information, and verify the source and authenticity. The same solution can be used for verifying the authenticity of documents, luggage, and in-transit goods.

NFC for tracking location

NFC-based tags, keychains, and accessories can be used to track locations from anywhere in the world.

Apple AirTags are powered with NFC technology for precise location tracking. Source: Apple

Apple AirTag is the perfect example of location tracking using NFC technology. Users can configure their AirTag from an iPhone and their phone will keep a track of the tag’s location in real-time. The tag can be placed on a pet’s collar for easy pet tracking, used as a keychain for finding your keys, or put inside a bag or a wallet for real-time location tracking.

NFC What You Need to Know About NFC — NFC

What can you do with an NFC?

You can use NFC tags for contactless payments, sharing contact information as a business card, location tracking, identity verification, access control along with hundreds of other uses and applications. An NFC tag can exchange information wirelessly, so it can practically be used for any interaction between two devices.

How do I make my own NFC?

You can buy NFC tags online easily and use an NFC application to configure gestures. All you need is an NFC application to start utilizing the potential of an NFC tag. You can also use Apple AirTags to create smart gestures for interacting with your iPhone or other NFC-enabled devices.

How do I use NFC on my Android?

NFC on Android is known as Beam™ or Nearby Share. You need to activate it before using it. Go to Settings on your Android, click connections and tap “NFC and Contactless Payments” to enable the NFC feature on Android phones. On some Android phones, you can find the setting as “Nearby Share” under Connection Preferences.

How do I transfer files using NFC?

Enable NFC on your smartphone and place both receiving and sending phones back against each other. Wait for the phone to detect the receiving device. Once both are connected, click on “Touch to Beam” or “Send via NFC” after selecting a file. You can also download a third-party app such as Bump to transfer files.

NFC Offers Much More Than Just Payments

NFC can be used to facilitate information exchange and simplify processes. That said, NFC is much more than just a medium for contactless payments. If you’re planning to innovate, consider exploring NFC to discover potential applications suited for your business.

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