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Philips, Nokia join forces on NFC-enabled phone

Posted: 04 Nov 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:philips semiconductor? nokia? near-field communications? 8bit microcontroller? smartmx?

Philips Semiconductor, Nokia and their partners rolled out a new handset on Tuesday (Nov. 2) based on Philips' near-field communications technology.

Partners Samsung and Visa International joined Philips and Nokia at the Cartes IT & Security show to show off the new NFC-capable handset, a triband camera phone with an NFC "shell" attached to the back of the handset. The NFC shell contains Philips Semiconductors' NFC chip, which interfaces with NFC radio while directly communicating with a baseband processor in the Nokia handset.

Nokia and Philips also announced a joint project with Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbung, the public transport authority for Frankfurt, Germany, to use NFC-capable mobile handsets in a trial. The authority already has 5,000 customers using contactless smart cards to purchase transit tickets. Of those 5,000, as mnay as 200 customers will use Nokia 3220 phones with a customized NFC shell (containing both Philips' NFC chip and its smart card chip for payment) to gain access to a local bus network.

The smart card chip customized for the trial is Philips' 8bit microcontroller-based Java card chip, called SmartMX, integrated with 72Kb electrically erasable PROM.

By using a mobile handset with an NFC shell rather than a smart card-based plastic transit card, "Consumers don't need to pull out" a specific transit card from among the many plastic cards in their wallets, said Nokia's Heikki Huomo. Customers will be able to turn on or off the payment capability on their mobile handset. Electronic receipts can also be stored in the mobile phone.

Mass transit could become one of the fastest-growing NFC applications. "We will be just piggybacking on the existing infrastructure," Huomo said.

The NFC shell used in the 3220 handset will not incorporate a smart card controller chip. Its NFC application will focus on nonpayment NFC applications such as service discovery connecting two Bluetooth devices without intricate setup procedures or sharing information between two NFC devices.

Ten to 15 percent of mobile operators' revenues come from the downloading ring tones or small Java-based games, according to Nokia. Despite the abundance of services, access to them is neither easy nor intuitive for most consumers. NFC can change that, according to Nokia.

Nokia has taken a harder look at NFC technology and said it is convinced that "a new touch paradigm" in which a consumer holds an NFC-capable handset up to another NFC-based tag or object "is a key element for bringing relevant data and services to the masses," said Huomo.

Samsung is also planning to launch several NFC-enabled mobile handsets early next year. Dale Sohn, vice president, overseas investment group at Samsung Electronics, said, "Depending on a variety of mobile operators' different revenue expectations and requirements, we are designing NFC handsets in different form factors and with different software."

Samsung has worked with Philips Semiconductors for over a year. Sohn said Samsung is waiting for Philips Semiconductors to launch a new NFC module by year's end before launching NFC-capable handsets. Philips' new NFC module will combine a modem chip with a SmartMX smart card controller chip, according to Philips, to achieve higher integration and better security.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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