RFID vs. NFC: What’s the Difference?

By Stephane Ardiley

What’s the difference between RFID and NFC? To be honest, that’s a really common question. RFID (radio frequency identification) and NFC (near field communication) are both wireless communication technologies that power the Internet of Things (IoT). The technologies can be used in everything from access control to asset tracking to payment.


Think of RFID as a one-way conversation: an unpowered RFID tag can provide information when scanned by a powered RFID reader, typically at distances between a few centimeters (high-frequency) and a few meters (ultra high-frequency), and without the necessity of a direct line of sight. The tags themselves are available passive (meaning they must be powered by a separate device) or active (meaning they are powered and can transmit data). RFID is most commonly used in situations requiring asset tracking.


A subset of RFID, NFC does share some of the same properties — i.e., one-way communication without a direct line of sight — yet there are some distinct differentiators. For starters, NFC is actually capable of a two-way conversation (and this can be used for more complex, secure interactions). Unlike RFID, NFC is limited to high-frequency (HF), close-proximity communication, typically up to 10 centimeters. Also, only one NFC tag can be scanned at a time. These factors make it the ideal choice for contactless payments. The prime advantage of NFC is that most modern mobile devices are now NFC-enabled and can be used as a mobile reader device, so no extra reader infrastructure is necessary.

NFC vs. RFID - Collage

How Identiv Can Help

Identiv’s team of RFID and NFC experts research, design, and manufacture ultra high-frequency (UHF) transponders. Available as dry inlays, wet inlays, labels, tickets, and more, they are ready to be embedded into everyday objects, including medical devices, perishable food items and pharmaceuticals, toys, books, and athletic apparel — anything our customers can imagine — bringing smart identities and security to the IoT.

Identiv’s portfolio of RFID Inlays (HF and UHF) are completely customizable, offering up multiple designs integrating various materials, chip technologies, and frequencies for metal and non-metal environments. Our RFID Labels are blank, printed, or transparent RFID stickers for metallic or non-metallic surfaces. For all media in the education industry, Identiv’s RFID Library Labels include a complete range of tags for item tracking and data capture. Our RFID Tickets are available in disposable, multi-use and reusable, single, or fan-fold form factors, making them the transponder solution for access control and authentication at transportation stations, event venues, and amusement parks. And Identiv’s UHF Tags portfolio features high-performance RFID designs for applications requiring long read distances, including supply chain management, asset tracking, logistics, manufacturing, anti-counterfeiting, consumables, real-time location systems, access control, healthcare, travel, and apparel and retail. Although RFID encompasses the LF, HF, and UHF frequency range, RFID is commonly referred to as UHF. For example, the RAIN RFID global alliance, of which Identiv is a member, solely focuses on UHF.

On the other side of things, our NFC-Enabled Solutions feature a catalog of transponders compatible with NFC Forum, created for contactless transactions and connecting electronic devices with a simple tap-and-go model. Our NFC solutions help support applications such as smart posters and business cards, mobile payments and ticketing, loyalty programs, promotional campaigns, simple electronic device pairing and setup, proximity data communication, printing needs, healthcare requirements, physical access control, and so much more. As a compact smart sensor for the IoT, Identiv’s uTrust Sense Temperature Tracker empowers businesses by providing a low-cost, self-adhesive temperature monitoring solution for virtually anything. The data can be read locally by a mobile device or uploaded to the cloud for analytics and remediation. Our NFC Tag Starter Kit was designed with developers in mind and includes five different types of tags for a vast variety of use cases, including consumer electronics, smart home, supply chain management, fashion, retail, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, gaming, and toys. It includes 25 tags with NXP NFC Forum Type 2/4/5 NTAG® and ICODE® tag ICs, compatible with Android® and Apple® iOS 11 devices, plus an optional uTrust 3700 F smart card reader. Identiv is a member of the NFC Forum.

Ready to Buy?

Shop Identiv’s RFID and NFC portfolio at shop.ideniv.com. If you still have questions, or are searching for a more custom option, reach out to our experts 24/7 at sardiley@identiv.com or vmauerberger@identiv.com.