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NFC forum pushes 'connected planet' vision

Posted: 26 Mar 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:royal philips electronics? sony? nokia? near field communication? consumer electronics?

Royal Philips Electronics, Sony Corp., and Nokia Corp. recently established the Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum to promote the implementation and standardization of NFC technology in various consumer electronics, mobile devices, PCs, smart objects and payment purposes. The NFC technology is rooted on touch-based interactions, which allows users to access content and services in an intuitive way by touching smart objects and connecting devices by holding them next to each other.

With the three giants leading the pack, other industry players like cellphone vendors, credit card companies as well as content vendors and operators are expected to join the forum. "Right now we already have consumer electronics and mobile communications. We certainly want to make sure that various industry segments like chip manufacturing, computing, media and entertainment, telecom and payment services are also represented," said Christophe Duverne, VP and general manager of global identification segment at Philips Semiconductors.

"We're expecting about 20 to 30 players in this forum. The real strength of the forum will not come from the number of its members, but on the weight each member carries," Duverne said.

In January, Philips and Visa International joined forces at a CES demonstration of contactless payment and connectivity applications based on Philips' NFC technology.

NFC technology 101

Just imagine seeing a poster advertising a concert with your favorite band. By flashing your mobile phone or PDA near the poster, you download information about the event from a smart chip in the poster. After finding out more about the concert, you can immediately buy tickets and store them electronically on your handheld device (or you can print it using an NFC-enabled printer). On the night of the concert, you can access the venue without ever having the need for a paper ticket. These are all what the NFC is capable of doing - easy access to information, entertainment, and services.

"NFC is based on the existing contactless identification (RFID) technology. Simply put, NFC is both a card reader and a smart card, and hence is capable of executing both functions," Duverne said. "Since it comes from smart-card technology, you can send encrypted data when it's about security, like in the case of payment transactions."

The single-chip solution NFC operates in the 13.56MHz, over a distance of about 10cm. NFC is also compatible with Philips' MIFARE technology and Sony's FeliCa card.

Consumer connected planet

NFC is a gateway to set up a home network, Duverne emphasized. It is also key to Philips' vision of having a "consumer connected planet" where consumers can have easy access to information, entertainment and services, anytime, anywhere, and in an intuitive manner. "We envision a consumer connected planet with various electronic devices connected with each other, with NFC acting as a gateway to the outside world, performing ADSL- or modem-like functionsNFC will basically contain the security level and IP addresses of each devices."

"NFC is going to revolutionize how you interact with consumer electronic devices. The interaction is based on the paradigm of touching two devices. By bringing two devices next to each other, they recognize each other, and then they start communication. It's very intuitive and very user-friendly."

NFC-enabled devices from Nokia are expected to roll out during the middle of this year. Philips has announced that their first products will hit the streets toward the end of the year. Sony, on the other hand, has not been specific as to when their first NFC-enabled devices will come out.

Bluetooth replica

In a beauty pageant of networking technology standards, NFC, Duverne said, claims to be a no-contender. He said the NFC is not competing with either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Aside from NFC being very short-ranged, NFC's baud rate is targeted at 1Mbps - basically for transfer of small data packs.

"NFC complements the two other standards," Duverne said. "Pairing two devices on a Wi-Fi and/or on a Bluetooth can be cumbersome. NFC can act as an initiator of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection."

Duverne said embedding an NFC chip would only cost "a couple of dollars, which is very competitive with either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth."

"In terms of sales, I don't think NFC will have a negative impact on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These technologies are complementary. In fact, NFC will increase the usage of the two devices."

Although the technology has a potential on a global basis, Duverne said Philips is more particular with the Asia-Pacific market. "Asia-Pacific is the continent we're more excited about. The Asians, in general, have a stronger inclination to high-tech gadgets. They are more flexible and quicker with the technology."

In terms of revenue potential, Duverne is positive that the NFC certainly has a market. "It's too early to predict, but we see a big potential considering Nokia alone makes about 200 million phones a year."

- Jerico Abila

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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