Difference Between RFID and NFC


Both RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies are identified as wireless technologies, which are used to transfer data within electronic devices. They are increasingly used in various kinds of applications in the real world to accomplish several tasks quicker and easier. RFID technology uses radio frequency waves to send and retrieve data, and it doesn’t need any contact or line of sight for data exchange. NFC technology is considered as a subset of RFID, and as an extended form of RFID. It typically uses a touch based interaction. Both technologies communicate in active mode, as well as in passive mode.


RFID is used within a system to transmit the unique identity of a person, or an object using wireless communication. This technology is mostly applied for retrieving data stored in a RFID tag, using RFID reader/writer. It uses radio waves and operates in both active and passive modes. Normally, RFID functions successfully within a greater distance compared to NFC, and this operational distance depends on the frequency of the devices and the communication mode. When it exchanges data using active mode, it works over hundred meters, while it limits to a shorter range, less than three meters, in the passive mode. Active mode is that, both interacting devices (RFID tag and the reader/writer) use their own power to transfer data, and passive mode is that, the RFID tag is not battery powered and it gains power from the reader to exchange data. The reader has an antenna or multiple antennas to transmit radio signals. RFID technology falls under automatic identification technologies too. As RFID has a greater working distance, it can be mostly used in applications like animal tracking and supply chain management.


NFC is a wireless communication technology, capable of functioning within a limited operational distance; up to 20 cm using 13.56 MHZ. It typically transfers data in 106kbps, 212kbps, and 424kbps data rates. NFC technology is inherited from RFID technology, and inductive coupling is the basis of NFC. So, two NFC enabled devices should be brought within few centimeters of each other to connect them, and that is why, it is referred as touch based interaction. This short operational range prevents the possibility of malicious attacks taking place, when considering from the security perspective of applying NFC technology. NFC, also operates in both active and passive modes, and it can communicate not only with two NFC devices in peer to peer mode, but also a NFC device with smartcards and NFC tags. As NFC is a safer technology with its short range of work compared to other wireless technologies, it can be widely used for payments, ticketing and service admittance.

What is the difference between RFID and NFC?

- RFID and NFC are wireless technologies that can operate in both, active and passive communication modes, to exchange data within electronic devices.

- RFID uses radio frequencies for communication, and NFC is an extension of this RFID technology. The origin of RFID technology runs for several years, but NFC is an unfold in the recent past.

- RFID can be used in any frequency or standard that are being used, but NFC requires 13.56 MHz frequency, and some other specifications to function properly.

- RFID can operate in a long distance range ;  so it is not suitable for reliable applications as it is susceptible for various fraud attacks such as data corruption, eavesdropping and man-in-the middle attacks while exchanging data wirelessly. But NFC has come out with a solution for this problem, and its short working range reduces this risk up to a considerable level.

- So RFID can be used for applications like animal tracking, which is required to handle the signals in a wide area, and NFC is appropriate for the reliable applications like mobile payments and access control, which exchange creditable information.