Wireless — this term evokes an array of feelings in technologists today. Even though the definition of the term is relatively simple, there are numerous protocols, standards, and methods that have been developed to perform wireless interactions. For example, by now, many of you have heard of the mobile applications, such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet, similarly, you might have a transit pass or badge for your gym or work. With a wave of your device or pass a scanner processes a “contactless transactions”. The tap-and-go experience of these technologies often utilize Near Field Communication, or NFC.
NFC is a set of standards that allows devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, an effective distance of 4 cm. A direct transmissions of specific information, separate from the open ended Wi-Fi access and seemingly limitless information resources it provides.
NFC tags are used to send a resource, or a specific set of data, directly to a patron’s mobile device to improve their information seeking experience. By utilizing this technology, Libraries have the ability to perform data exchanges with patron mobile devices without scanning a QR-code, or pairing devices (as required by Bluetooth) providing a less complex experience.
There are many useful tasks you can program these tags to perform. One example would be to set a tag to update a patron’s mobile calendar with an event your library is having. These tags have the ability to be programmed with date, time, location, and an alarm information to remind the patron of the event, which is substantially more effective than a QR codes ability to connect a patron with a destination. Another useful method of using this technology would be to program a set of NFC keychains for the library staff to have on hand programmed to allow Wi-Fi access, no more password requests or questions about access, just a simple tap of the NFC keychain. The ability to execute preset instructions, beyond just a URL for the mobile device, differentiates NFC tags from QR codes. Many NFC tag users also find them more appealing visually, because they can be placed into posters or other advertisement materials without visually altering the design.
The use of this technology has been anticipated in libraries for several years now. However, there is a one minor issue with implementing NFC tags, Apple only supports the use of this technology for Apple Pay. Apple devices do not currently support the use of NFC for any other transaction, even though the technology is available on their devices. Hopefully, in the future Apple will make NFC unrestrained on their devices, and this technology and it will become more widely utilized.