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November 09, 2015 • Issue 15:11:01

NFC specs aim for widespread adoption

The NFC Forum released a new set of specifications for near field communication (NFC) technology on Oct. 14, 2015. The new guidelines are subject to review and approval by the forum and include one approved specification and two candidate specifications.

NFC Forum Chairman Koichi Tagawa thanked committee and working group members for writing the specs and for their continuing efforts to improve NFC communication protocols, architecture and device capabilities. "The expansion [to tag operation format NFC-V] means that NFC technology can reach a broader market and support even more use cases," he said.

NFC Forum mission

The not-for-profit organization based in Wakefield, Mass., was established in 2004 to expand NFC technology adoption and use. Global members from manufacturing, software development and financial services include Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp., MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. Following are the organization's stated objectives:

  • Develop standards-based NFC specifications that define a modular architecture and interoperability parameters for NFC devices and protocols
  • Encourage the development of products using NFC Forum specifications
  • Work to ensure that products claiming NFC capabilities comply with NFC Forum specifications
  • Educate consumers and enterprises globally about NFC

Continued growth in contactless cards, readers

The NFC Forum reached a critical milestone in June 2006 with the release of a formal NFC architecture. Since then, 15 additional specifications have helped to establish an array of new and prospective NFC applications. NFC adherents view the technology as a way to transact, exchange digital content and connect electronic devices that is simpler than other available options.

"A standards-based connectivity technology, NFC harmonizes today's diverse contactless technologies, enabling current and future solutions in areas such as access control, consumer electronics, healthcare, information collection and exchange, loyalty and coupons, payments, and transport," the NFC Forum stated.

The Forum reported year-over-year growth in contactless payment card issuance and card-reader deployment worldwide. A study co-authored with Strategy Analytics Inc., a global advisory service, found more than 1 billion active NFC-enabled devices in the marketplace worldwide and expects that number to double by the end of 2016.

"When you look at the factors that drive consumer adoption, the most important ones are those that help fulfill NFC's promise to deliver interactions that are swift, sure and efficient," said Paula Hunter, NFC Forum Executive Director. "That's what matters most to consumers."

New NFC-V spec

The approved specification for NFC Forum Type 5 Tag Operation defines how to build an NFC Forum Type 5 Tag and how NFC devices interact with the tag. The tag can be used in short distance communications, smart posters and other interactive applications that are activated when users hold NFC devices near embedded tags.

The NFC Forum expects NFC-V short distance technology to broaden global adoption and create additional use cases for NFC. The Forum's support for NFC-V is designed for high-speed communication mode and short distance reading, which is consistent with NFC device capabilities. These devices are designed to operate within a few centimeters of the contactless card or form factor to deliver a consistent user experience.

Three candidate specs

Candidate technical specifications address digital, analog and communication attributes of NFC devices and infrastructures. Following is a brief overview of the three candidate specifications.

  1. NFC Analog Candidate Technical Specification Version 2.0 details the externally observable radio signals for NFC devices, which gives manufacturers the ability to use NFC chips from different suppliers while remaining compatible.
  2. NFC Activity Candidate Technical Specification Version 2.0 introduces NFC-V technology and Active Communication Mode, designed to enhance interoperability with other Active Communication Mode NFC devices. Active Communication Mode stabilizes links between peer devices by balancing their power consumption. It also defines the building blocks for setting up radio frequency (RF) protocol in its various uses within an NFC device.
  3. NFC Digital Candidate Technical Specification Version 2.0 addresses the digital part of the RF protocol used by NFC devices. The specification supports different RF technologies and protocols to enhance compatibility among new and legacy RF infrastructures.
"The candidate specifications contribute to [NFC Forum] goals by streamlining the handshake and communication processes and balancing the processing workload between peer devices to conserve power," Hunter said. "They also help drive business adoption by supporting NFC-V technology, which enables businesses to choose from a broader range of tags to better suit their business needs."

NFC Forum members and other standards organizations are expected to review the candidate specifications and provide feedback to the Forum. The NFC Forum will then evaluate and consider the feedback before releasing a final, official specification. end of article

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