NFC is a system with an exciting history. It’s based on RFID, which is rumored to have been invented during the Second World War, though it was officially created in 1983. NFC, as we know it today, emerged in the early 2000s.
Interestingly, many of us use NFC almost every day, but we often don’t even realize it. Now we see NFC included in smart rings, which might lead you to ask what an NFC smart ring is and what it can do. Does it really make a difference whether my smart ring has NFC or not?
What Is an NFC Smart Ring?
Let’s start by looking at what NFC is.
NFC is an acronym for Near-Field Communication. It involves two devices: a reader device and a tag. The reader device generates an electromagnetic field. When you bring the tag close to the reader device, the electromagnetic field induces an electric current which powers the tag. Any data stored on the tag can then be sent to the reader device.
Most modern smart devices, including smartphones and smartwatches, come equipped with NFC tags. Smart rings are one of the newer implementations of NFC technology.
In other words, an NFC smart ring is simply one equipped with an NFC chip. The programming on the smart ring will tell the chip what data to transmit to any reader device it connects to.
What Does an NFC Smart Ring Do?
Most of us use NFC every day. Keycards and access devices have NFC chips that let us open doors or log into computers without passwords or biometrics. Bank cards, smartphones, and smartwatches use NFC chips to make payments on tap-to-pay card machines. Some phones can also use NFC to share files between devices or to authenticate file sharing.
Smart devices give NFC additional power. Instead of having pre-coded data, like access cards, they can pass different sets of data depending on what you’re using it for at the time.
Smart rings have many of the same NFC capabilities as smartwatches but with a few particular use cases. Let’s examine the four most popular ways people use NFC smart rings.
Some NFC smart rings allow you to make payments using tap-to-pay. This is similar to using an Apple Watch to make payments. Once you have a card linked to Apple Pay, you can simply tap your Apple Watch against a card machine to make a payment, which will then be deducted from that card.
However, since smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung don’t yet have smart rings on the market, you can’t use systems like Apple Pay. Instead, NFC smart rings that support payments have their own systems where you must add your card.
A notable example is the McLEAR smart ring. It has a companion app called RingPay that lets you add bank cards. When you tap your NFC smart ring against a card machine, the app ensures that the NFC chip transmits the details of the card you linked with your McLEAR RingPay app.
You can use NFC rings to make payments on any card machine or device with the Contactless Payment logo. However, keep in mind that not all NFC smart rings support payments. The ring must be compatible with the EMV standard, and the manufacturer must have an agreement with card providers, notably Visa and MasterCard.
Contactless Travel Passes
Some smart rings use NFC technology to give you easy travel passes. For example, instead of loading credit on a card to pay for train, bus, or subway access, you load that credit on your smart ring. Similarly, instead of tapping your card against the reader, you simply tap your ring and pass through.
These smart rings usually store the monetary value of your available credit on the rings themselves, so each time you tap the ring, the amount is deducted from your available credit.
Once again, it’s important to note that not all smart rings support this feature, and not all transit systems can link with smart rings. There must be an agreement between the ring’s manufacturer and the owners of the transit system. So, you must confirm that your ring will work with the transit systems you use.
K Ring, for example, has an agreement with Transport for London (TfL). If you have a K Ring, you can link that with your travel pass to make contactless travel even more accessible and painless.
NFC smart rings are quickly replacing access badges. NFC and RFID technologies have been used in keycards, access badges, and key fobs for many years, but it’s easy to misplace or lose any of those devices. A ring is meant to stay on your finger throughout the day, so they aren’t as easy to misplace, which improves the security of any building.
An NFC smart ring can be programmed with the same access codes usually found in NFC access cards, so users can simply tap their ring against the card reader instead of looking for the keycard.
A notable example is the Token Smart Ring. This isn’t a typical commercial smart ring—it specifically targets large businesses. It has excellent encryption and security protocols to make hacking difficult, but it adds many other functions to make the ring even more helpful for its users.
Home Door Access
It’s no longer just big corporations that use NFC technology to control access to sensitive areas. It seems like home smart locks are becoming more and more popular daily. The remarkable thing is that some of these locks, like the Samsung NFC Door Lock, can often be programmed to work with compatible NFC smart rings.
The OPN Ring is an excellent example of an NFC smart ring that can be programmed to open smart locks. Imagine the convenience of giving a smart ring to each person in your family so they can simply tap their fingers against the lock to open the front door.
Are NFC Smart Rings Worth It?
As we can see, most use cases for NFC smart rings are based on one thing: convenience. Sure, you can use other devices to accomplish the same thing, but it’s much easier to tap your ring instead of taking your phone out of your pocket or getting a card from your wallet. As an added advantage, smart rings aren’t easily lost or stolen, so there’s some added security.
If you’re curious…
We looked at the primary uses of NFC smart rings, but making payments is probably the most popular use case. If you want to learn more about how that works, you can read all about it in the next post!