Archive for the ‘contactless infrastructure’ Category

Near Field Communication: Ready For Take Off

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

In 2002, NXP Semiconductors and Sony co-invented Near Field Communication (NFC), a short-range wireless connectivity technology that provides consumers with simple and secure, intuitive and convenient interaction between a variety of electronic devices, such as mobile phones, computers and digital cameras. Examples of NFC use cases include mobile phones that enable payment and ticketing as well as digital cameras that send their photos to a TV set with a simple tap. NFC evolved from a combination of contactless identification and interconnection technology, operating in 13.56MHz frequency range and over a distance of a few centimeters and was standardized by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) in 2004.

Since its early days, NFC has garnered major interest from various industries. In an effort to advance the use of the technology NXP, Nokia and Sony joined forces and established the NFC Forum in 2004, focused on developing specifications, ensuring interoperability between devices and services and educating the market about NFC. More than 150 member companies make up the Forum today, including semiconductor, handset, PC and consumer electronics manufacturers, applications developers, financial services institutions, among others.

The struggle for standardization
Early days of NFC adoption lacked technical standards and cooperation among numerous ecosystem players, and were faced with market misconceptions. That said, business model discussions and the struggle to finalize standardization of the technology have yielded great progress addressing the needs and ambitions of the various players within the NFC mobile ecosystem. More than 200 NFC projects have been conducted worldwide to date, including trials and commercial deployments with varying use cases of the technology, all of which have resulted in strong adoption and positive feedback from users about NFC’s ease-of-use.

Recently, NFC players successfully standardized the NFC SIM interface at European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). This Single Wire Protocol (SWP) provides the interface between the SIM card and the NFC chipset on the hardware layer, and enables the hosting of contactless applications securely in SIM cards of mobile phones, a key request from mobile networks operators.

NXP has actively supported and contributed to the development of a definition of a common SWP standard that is fully compliant with the existing contactless infrastructure. Additionally, the software layer for NFC applications, the Host Controller interface (HCI), has been standardized. The first products using these standards, such as the Nokia 6216, have recently been announced (http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1307541), and will be commercially available in the second half of 2009.

The leap forward with NXP’s PN544
Leveraging its leadership and expertise in NFC, NXP has presented the world’s first industry standard NFC controller with the company’s launch of the PN544. The PN544 delivers a fully compliant standards-based for handset manufacturers and operators developing next generation NFC devices and services, and is based on the latest NFC specifications by ETSI.

The PN544 is fully compliant with all released NFC specifications on the SWP connection with the SIM and the Host Controller Interface. In addition, NXP worked closely with leading SIM card manufacturers, including Gemalto, Oberthur Technologies and Giesecke & Devrient, to ensure SWP interface interoperability including support of the MIFARE technology. The new NFC controller is fully backwards compatible and interoperable with existing contactless infrastructure for payments and ticketing (e.g. MIFARE), already in place across the world.

To meet the needs of differing handset manufacturers, the PN544 has been designed to support the three main architectures used to secure NFC transactions, including the Secure Element within the Universal Integrated Card (UICC), within the SD card and within the mobile handset (embedded Secure Element: PN544 plus Smart MX security in a pin to pin compliant solution).

The PN544 also features optimized antenna designs for best-in-class performance and a small footprint for size optimization in various electronic device architectures. The controller is specifically designed for low power consumption and works with energy from the field if the handset battery power is low or off. NXP offers the PN544 together with an optional modular, generic and platform independent software stack. To shorten the integration time, NXP also offers qualified design-in support.

The way forward for NFC
With standardization issues resolved, mobile handset makers can take advantage of the compliant chipsets, and can begin producing NFC handsets in larger volumes. Major handset manufacturers are currently NXP’s PN544 to ramp up their production, and new standard compliant NFC devices should be available in the second half of 2009.

This development will bring NFC-enabled phones to consumers in large volumes, so they can take advantage of the ease, speed and convenience offered by the technology. Leading handset manufacturers have indicated plans to incorporate NFC as a standard feature into their cell phone platforms, comparable with today.

With large contactless infrastructure already in place, it is expected that commercial deployments will initially focus on contactless payment in Northern America and on ticketing in Asia and Europe. The arrival of NFC handsets and other NFC-enabled devices will advance the adoption of NFC and boost the launch of new contactless applications and services in the markets around the globe.