Getting started with NFC, which NFC tag to choose?

Getting started with NFC can be overwhelming at first. Jargon like NFC Forum, Tag Type 1,2,3,4, NDEF, NFC chip, NTAG203, Ultralight, DESFire and Mifare can be confusing, not to mention the different shapes and sizes of NFC tags available. The thing is, choosing NFC tag is not as hard as it seems to be. First you need to get an NFC reader obviously. This can be either an NFC enabled mobile device or a PC connected NFC reader. A reader is a general term, you can be assured that they can write as well :).

Next, you need to get some NFC tags and the first step is to choose which NFC chip to use. NFC chip or IC (Integrated Circuit) is the heart of every NFC tag. NFC chips differs in technical characteristics such as memory layout as well as security features that they can support. The major factor when choosing NFC chip is the amount of memory it can hold. Think about what do you plan to store in the tag. If you plan to store a short URL or short text, an Ultralight tag with 46 bytes is sufficient. NTAG203 tag with 137 bytes of memory is good enough for almost all purposes. The have excellent scan performance too. If you plan to store big amount of data such as vCard (contact data), you might want to choose Mifare 1K or DESFire EV1 4k/8k. In general, NFC tag with bigger memory space tends to cost more and the response time tend to be slightly slower.

Another factor to consider when choosing NFC chip is the NFC Forum Type Tag standard compliance.  It is a standard to ensure interoperability between NFC tags and NFC devices. There are 4 types of tag (Type 1,2,3 and 4) defined in the standard.  Type 2 and 4 tags are mostly common in our store. Mifare 1K chip is not adhering to standards by NFC Forum. Some devices are known to have problem to work with it. Based on our findings, Blackberry, Windows Phone and some of the newer Android devices such as Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 have problem with Mifare 1K. Nevertheless, this chip is commercially available for quite some time and widely used in many areas. If you know that your device can read Mifare 1K and do not plan to share your tags publicly, it is OK to use Mifare 1K. It has decent amount of memory (about 5 times bigger than Type 2 tag) and relatively cheaper. Just bear in mind that your future NFC devices might not be able to read it. If you plan to place your tag in public area, it might be good idea to avoid this chip.

The next factors are shapes and sizes of your NFC tags. You have to consider where the tag will be placed and the environmental condition surrounding it. Stickers or labels are the most popular form of NFC tags. Once stuck, they are seldom removed. They are a good choice for smart posters and task automation on your phone. Paper based stickers cannot withstand harsh outdoor condition. Stickers made from film or PVC fare better. Normal NFC tag would not work on metal surfaces or on electronic devices as they interfere with the signal. For this, you need an on-metal NFC tag. It has an additional ferrite layer, shielding the tag from electromagnetic interference. Due to this extra layer, on-metal stickers are slightly thicker than normal stickers.

Products like key chains and cards are useful if you want to carry a NFC tag along with you. They are portable and slip easily in your pocket or wallet. They are made out of PVC, so they are more durable and have better water resistance than the stickers.

When choosing tag sizes, you want to make sure that there is enough room to put your tag. NFC stickers should stick flat and firmly on a surface. It is not advisable to bend or fold them as the antenna might be damaged. In general, bigger tag gives better scan performance. However, if you like your tag to be hidden and inconspicuous, choose the smaller tag.

Finally, get an application or software to encode your NFC tags. For mobile phones/tablets, there are plenty of applications available that can read and write your tags. Some applications will tell you how big is the data that you want to encode so that you know which NFC chip to use.

There you go, a short guide on how to choose your NFC tag. Happy tapping!

Pay for your order with MOLPay

We always strive to enhance your buying experience at our NFC store. We also understand that security is of utmost importance when making online payment. Recently we have appointed MOLPay as our online payment gateway. MOLPay is an award winning and reputable secure payment gateway provider that is already popular in Malaysia. Now, if you have an internet banking account with any of the major local bank, you can use MOLPay to pay for your order.

Currently, MOLPay supports the following payment channels:

  •  CIMB Clicks
  • Maybank2u
  • PBeBank
  • Bank Islam
  • Hong Leong Connect
  • Alliance Online
  • RHB Now
  • MEPS FPX
  • Webcash

When you pay using MOLPay, you will be directed to your internet banking platform login page which you are already familiar with. Payment using MOLPay is confirmed instantaneously.

MOLPay is the newest addition to our existing payment methods which include credit cards, PayPal and bank transfer.

It’s all about providing more choices and bringing the convenience to you 🙂

The biggest and the smallest

In term of memory capacity, what is the biggest and the smallest NFC tag that we have in our store?

    Well, we have recently added 3 new products. Under NFC cards, we have DESFire EV1 4K cards with 4094 bytes memory capacity. This is the biggest memory size so far that we have in our store. If you want to store large amount of information (like vCards, where 1K is never enough), this is a good product for you.
    Then we also introduced Ultralight stickers and cards. They have the smallest memory size with only 64 bytes. Why would you want to buy NFC tags with small memory capacity? Well, they are cheaper than other chips and if you just want to store a URL or short text, you don’t need anything bigger than Ultralight tags. They are also NFC Forum Tag Type 2 compatible. That means they can be used across all NFC devices, something you would want for your smart posters.
Head over to our online NFC store for more information!
Update: We now have DESFire EV1 8K cards in out store if 4K is not enough for you.

NFC Reader – You have asked for it and we bring it to you

Just arrived in our store – NFC readers. These readers (oh, they actually write too) came in a few models from as small as USB sticks to as big as your palm. They can be connected to your desktop (or laptop) via USB or Serial link. They support Mifare tags as well as all NFC Forum Tag Type. So, all of our NFC tags are compatible with these readers.

Who would need an NFC reader? If you are a software developer working to integrate NFC to your desktop application, you might want to consider these readers. Software is not included but you may download the driver from manufacturer’s website.
If you are working with NFC reader for the first time, you might want to consider to get our Software Development Kit (SDK) which come with sample codes, demo applications and tools/utilities. The SDK can be useful to kick-start your development process.
These readers are manufactured by Advanced Card Systems (ACS) and backed by 1 year limited warranty.

On-Metal NFC Stickers

Today we introduced on-metal NFC stickers in our store. Regular NFC stickers are not designed to work well on metal surfaces. This includes surfaces of electronic devices like the casing of your mobile phone or laptop. Metal surface will cause radio signal interference to the communication. If you intend to stick NFC stickers on a metal surface, you need to use on-metal NFC stickers (or sometimes called anti-metal stickers). These stickers have a special metal-isolated layer which will shield the tag from interference. This extra layer makes the stickers thicker than usual, which is about 1 mm in thickness. The on-metal stickers are also more durable and able to withstand harsher outdoor condition than the normal paper sticker. So, head over to our store to get these stickers.