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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 12, 2016 • Issue 16:12:01

NFC tag certification program targets IoT

Wakefield, Mass.-based NFC Forum introduced a tag certification program in November 2016. It is a global initiative aimed at defining common operability and compliance parameters for a diverse group of near field communication (NFC) tag applications. Two working groups within the forum will manage the program; The Internet of Things Special Interest Group (SIG) and Compliance Committee are soliciting guidance from existing and prospective NFC Forum members in the wide-ranging initiative, the forum stated.

Paula Hunter, Executive Director at the NFC Forum, emphasized a need for interoperability in the increasingly complex Internet of Things (IoT). Establishing standard certification guidelines for the most commonly used NFC tags will help tag-issuing organizations achieve compliance while delivering a consistent user experience, she said.

Hunter noted that the initiative was favorably received at the Forum's October 2016 meeting in Vienna. "It bears mentioning that our Technology Committee wrote the specs for NFC tags; 1 through 4 have been released; 5 is coming on board," she stated, during an interview with The Green Sheet. "While most standards organizations want everything tight and complete before announcing, we want the support and buy in of all who will benefit from a firm set of requirements and streamlined, relevant standards."

Broadly applicable technology

In addition to developing specifications for NFC technology, the NFC Forum has been focused on driving adoption by educating the market about NFC's many uses. Global forum member companies include Apple Inc., Broadcom Corp., Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., Google Inc., Intel Corp., Mastercard, NXP Semiconductors N.V., Qualcomm Technologies Inc., Samsung Corp., Sony Corp., STMicroelectronics and Visa Inc.

Allied Business Intelligence Inc. research suggested as many as 36.4 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, making NFC tags a timely solution for a range of applications and sensing methods. Analysts expect consumer adoption of mobile technologies to benefit the NFC market.

NFC technology uses antenna-equipped microchips to store and retrieve information on NFC-enabled devices. Their compact size and low costs ideally position NFC tags to serve as passive conduits on a range of media, including posters, magazines, audio accessories and household appliances, according to the NFC Forum. NFC tags can also be used in fixed and mobile applications such as ticketing, mobile marketing, access control and public transportation.

NFC coexists with other technologies such as Bluetooth LE and radio frequency identification (RFID); finding the right technology fit depends on use cases, Hunter stated. For example, low-cost RFID tags may be appropriate for disposable products; NFC is useful for more complex applications that require authentication. Decisions are usually based on price, proximity and security, she said.

Comments, ideas welcome

Hunter expects the NFC tag certification program will expedite NFC product adoption by lowering related costs and simplifying NFC integration with third-party technology providers. "This approach will ensure a consistent user experience in every retail shop in the world, while accounting for all the variables that occur in the market," she said.

Koichi Tagawa, NFC Forum Chairman, has observed expanding adoption of NFC throughout the world. "Innovative tag applications are growing as NFC experiences increased market adoption across the majority of mobile device OEMs and operating systems," he said.

The NFC Forum's Internet of Things Special Interest Group and Compliance Committee are reaching out to the entire NFC supply chain, soliciting organizations to become members of the NFC Forum and contribute to the NFC tag certification and compliance program.

As part of its membership drive, the forum has introduced lower membership costs for technology startups and companies planning to implement and certify NFC tags in accordance with the new standards. More information about the program and membership levels can be found at http://nfc-forum.org/about-us/join-the-forum/. The Green Sheet, Inc.

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