NFC: A Journey from Cell Phones to Children’s Toys

Technology is a crazy thing. Something that is important to society, could also be used in children’s toys. That’s the case with this week’s topic of discussion, NFC chips. NFC stands for near-field communication and it allows two devices to communicate within a certain distance of each other. The technical aspect of NFC chips are interesting, but a lot of the “interesting” involves techy nerd language, so instead I am going to cover its applications and how they all differ from each other. 

One of the major, and more popular, uses for NFC chips is their use in commerce. NFC chips allow for wireless payments such as Google and Apple pay, where you connect using your phone. These payment methods are supposed to be alternatives to cash and card payments and aren’t available at every store, but they are slowly growing in popularity. NFC chips have also been used in social networking in a way. It wasn’t used for any kind of Facebook tier website, but it was used for transferring contacts, images, files, etc. NFC chips have also been used in playing mobile multiplayer games, allowing others players to connect to each other. Including all their other uses, the chips have also been used in phones. Samsung used NFC readers and chips to update phones, install apps, etc. How it works is that a sticker called a NFC tab is pre-programmed using an app, and is stuck to a phone. When the tab is stuck to the phone, it causes the NFC reader in the phone to react to the tab and carry out whatever the tab was programmed to do. Finally, last but not least, what prompted me to write this article. NFC chips in gaming. NFC chips started a brand in gaming called toys-to-life. Toys-to-life usually involve a base plate with and NFC reader and toys with NFC chips inside. The toys would either be brought to life or do a multitude of other functions depending on the game and toy. The first one to kick this off was Skylanders, which was a major success. Once the creators of Skylanders, as well as other companies, saw this they decided to create more toys to life games. Skylanders continued for multiple entries, Lego made their own version called Lego Dimensions, Disney made Disney Infinity, and Nintendo had their hand in multiple NFC toys-to-life games. One was a game called Pokemon Rumble U which was a Wii U game where you used toy pokemon to complete levels, while the others were Amiibos. Amiibos had no specific game and could be used for different things across a variety of titles. Toys-to-life died out due to fact that parents ,as well as kids, saw it as a scam since most later entries in games required the player to buy more of the newer series of toy as opposed to just using their old ones. The only NFC toys-to-life that survived was Amiibo, and that’s because they are statues of Nintendo characters and are seen more as collectables than toys. 

These are all of the major applications of NFC to date. The same tech that we use to Apple pay for our mocha macchiato was also used in a toy you probably bought your cousin three to four years ago.