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Philips to launch 'near-field' products for smart cards

Posted: 21 Nov 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:philips? smart card reader? near-field communications? nfc? cartes 2003?

Exploiting a near-field radio communication technology, Philips will roll out new consumer products in '04 integrating a smart card reader based on near-field communications (NFC).

Philips said its strategy is to move smart card technology into the home. "We're taking the lead in building a smart card infrastructure in the consumer electronics world," said Christoph Duverne, the Dutch company's global marketing director responsible for identification. Duverne was interviewed at Cartes 2003, an international smart card conference.

Philips Semiconductors' new NFC chip integrates two diverging contactless smart card interfaces - the Philips-developed Mifare and Sony's FeliCa - sampling now and ready for production in the first quarter of '04, Duverne unveiled.

Possible NFC-equipped consumer products include TVs, remote controls, handsets, PDAs and PC monitors, said Duverne. By bringing contactless cards closer to NFC-equipped consumer devices, consumers can download data or make a purchase through the NFC interface.

Duverne listed four different NFC building blocks: a contactless smart card reader; contactless card; wireless peer-to-peer connectivity, allowing two NFC devices to communicate for data transfer; and using NFC to trigger Bluetooth connections.

Bringing Bluetooth-enabled devices with about 10cm of each other, NFC can automatically initiate Bluetooth connectivity. Consumers are spared the ordeal of "scrawling through a long menu to identify the device and set up the initial Bluetooth connectivity process," said Duverne.

Besides introducing its own brand NFC products, Philips will also provide consumer products featuring an NFC-based reader for other companies. "The greater the installed base is, the more attractive the NFC becomes," Duverne said.

By adding a contactless interface to a smart card for a mobile phone, for example, the handset can effectively become an electronics fare or e-wallet. Although Philips is not directly involved in the joint venture between Sony Corp. and NTT DoCoMo, Duverne said, "We welcome the contactless interface trend in the mobile phone industry."

The two Japanese companies are working to combine Sony's contactless IC card technology and DoCoMo's i-mode technology in an effort to make mobile phones function as personal devices and pocket books.

Because NFC is designed to be interoperable with both Mifare and FeliCa protocols, a DoCoMo phone with Sony's Felica IC could theoretically be used to download data with NFC-equipped consumer devices, Duverne said.

NFC-equipped devices will operate at 13.56MHz. Although specifications will be extended to include support for much higher data rates - up to 1Mbps over a distance of 20cm - contactless smart cards today exchange data at a speed of 212Kbps.

Both Sony and Philips see NFC's short wireless communication distance capability as an advantage rather than a liability. "Because you physically need to bring your device in close proximity with another device, either for data transfer or access to services based on smart-card applications, most consumers find the process so much more intuitive," Mitsuhiko Ueda, assistant manager of Sony's NFC business development department, said at the conference.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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