Start a conversation with NFC: Three operating modes

Co-invented by NXP Semiconductors and Sony Electronics, Near Field Communication (NFC) is a subset of RF identification (RFID). It operates at 13.56 MHz and performs many of the same functions as RFID tags and contactless smartcards, while adding peer-to-peer communications.

With NFC, a simple tap is all it takes to initiate a transaction. Depending on the use case, that transaction can use one of three operating modes: Read/Write, Peer-to-Peer, or Card Emulation. Here’s a short overview of each mode.



ChameleonIn Read/Write mode, the system performs the functions of a contactless reader/writer. The system’s NFC IC interacts with an NFC-enabled device – such as a contactless smartcard, an NFC tag, or an NFC-enabled smartphone (operating in Card Emulation Mode) – and either reads data in from the device or writes data out to it. This mode is used to get information or initiate an action.


wearablePeer-to-Peer mode is used to establish a two-way communication channel between a pair of NFC-enabled devices. Each NFC-enabled device serves as an endpoint, meaning the two systems can initiate a communication as equals, or peers. This mode uses either a passive or active communication scheme.



Card Emulation Mode lets the system behave as an ISO/IEC 14443-compliant contactless smartcard.

This means that the NFC-enabled device can be used in the existing contactless card infrastructure, for things like ticketing, access control, transit, tollgates, and contactless payments.



Look at real-world systems

For block diagrams that show how NFC can be integrated into an application, check out these NFC-enabled systems:

Get the details

For an online overview of what NFC is and what it can do for you, visit our NFC Everywhere website. For the next level in technical detail, including a product selector guide, download the NFC Everywhere brochure.




Laurent Dardé
Laurent Dardé
Laurent Dardé is Marketing Director for Security and Connectivity at NXP Semiconductors. In his more than 18 years in the technology industry, he has managed engineering groups in the automotive and consumer segments, with a special emphasis on multimedia, communications, and lifestyle products. His present position, which involves developing new markets for NFC technology, lets him build on his passion for the customer experience, and leverages his certification as a LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt.

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