Ambrose Blog

NFC Near Field Communication

NFC (Near Field Communication) in Print

Seamlessly connect print to digital media with NFC (Near Field Communication)

NFC in print holds great potential for linking traditional items such as business cards, books and invites directly to updateable online content without the need for an app or a QR code.

We’ve been quietly promoting NFC tags integrated into printed products for a couple of years now but until recently there was an elephant in the room… interest was always huge until the Apple subject arose: “when is Apple going to embrace NFC technology?”

With the exception of iphone, NFC has been available to all smartphone users for a number of years. Samsung were early embracers, HTC and Motorola soon followed and in recent years all smartphones have included the technology as standard. Apple has finally included an NFC reader in the iphone6 however for now they have restricted its use to ApplePay. There is some debate about whether Apple will open up the reader to general use in forthcoming software updates, however for now the extensive additional benefits of NFC outside of pay-by-phone remain the solely with smartphone users.

NFC tags are available in a variety of formats; the ones we use on our business cards are 25mm in diameter and incredibly thin (100microns or 0.1mm). They are easily concealed within printed pieces and can be programmed to do a whole host of things however the most useful for printed media may be a simple link to a URL from which a completely bespoke experience can be delivered. The beauty is that, unlike QR codes, NFC does not rely on the user opening an application on the phone or using the camera, nor does it depend upon on an ugly barcode. Instead, just by touching the phone onto an NFC enabled product the phone will recognise the NFC tag and open the URL; the phone simply needs to be switched on and not in sleep mode, the NFC tag will do the rest. With that differentiating factor NFC catapults itself way above QR codes; the user experience is seamless, you don’t have to keep opening your reader app, with NFC you just touch and connect.

In terms of where to direct the user, the most obvious idea would be a simple link to a webpage in the same way that a user of our own NFC business cards would have been directed to this page. Most interestingly, the website being a live media, content can be changed as frequently as you wish, bringing a fully updatable dimension to the traditional static printed piece.

For example: A private view; the beautifully printed, foiled, duplexed, embossed, gilt and bevelled-edged private view invite produced on an impressively tactile material can now go interactive and without a QR code in sight, all your guests need to do is to place the invite on their NFC enabled phone. Your “keepsake” bespoke printed invite or exhibition catalogue now has an interactive element that not only provides a further dimension but also brings a very real timelessness as you can update the online content as often as you like. So before, during and after an event the interaction could reveal a new experience; for instance. For instance, the same tag could provide travel directions before the event, an app download during the event and a means of giving feedback after the event, just by editing the web content as required.

Whether or nor this simple technology is embraced fully by Apple remains to be seen. For now, we know the iphone6 has the capability to read NFC and we’re waiting on Apple releasing the reader for general use outside of ApplePay. Until then, to all smartphone users who visited this page through our NFC business cards, we hope you enjoyed the experience. To Apple users, well, sorry, you’ll just have to wait a while longer.

For information on mobile devices that currently support NFC visit:
NFC World phones list

For more general information on NFC visit: