NFC World Congress, Apple Advance NFC

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Mobile Displays – While Apple has received a lot of press for its introduction of near field communications (NFC) in the iPhone 6, this is not the only NFC news worth hearing. The NFC World Congress has just ended in Marseille, France, an annual trade show for the NFC industry.

The exhibition at the NFC World congress was relatively small, with only about 30 exhibitors. Key players such as Sony, Samsung and Apple did not exhibit, at least not publicly. Presumably, they were all there in suites behind closed doors.

NFC is a hardware interface that allows two devices near each other to talk to each other at relatively low bit rates. It’s original intention was for mobile payment systems but companies like Sony have been adopting it for other applications. Since proximity is required, it is difficult or impossible for eavesdroppers to listen in on the communication. But the hardware interface, as any student of mobile technology knows, is only part of the story, a small part of the story at that.

There are a variety of software technologies that use NFC technology to then allow the NFC terminal at the retailer to go over the Internet to transfer the money from the smartphone owner’s account to the retailer’s account. These include HCE (host card emulation), NFC SE/SIM-based systems (near field communication secure element SIM card), tokenization and now ApplePay.

The plenary day and the two following conference days at the NFC World Congress delved deeply into these M-Payment issues, which are not primarily hardware issues. For example, the first plenary panel discussion was titled “Impact of Apple and HCE for the m-payment ecosystems”. Panel members included representatives of PayPal, Visa Europe, the NFC Forum and MasterCard Europe.

Besides M-payment and retail applications, other hot topics included the Internet of Things and the use of NFC for non-payment applications such as transport, ticketing, marketing and access control.

The NFC Forum is the governing body for NFC. Its members are a who’s who of mobile technology. Perhaps the most glaring omission from the membership list is Apple, who is not even on the list as an “Implementer Member”.

Multiple news items came out of the NFC World Congress and other sources recently. These include:

  • The NFC Forum has published a new white paper entitled Connection Handover User Experience Recommendations, a helpful guide for any developer seeking to give consumers seamless access to Bluetooth and WiFi services using NFC. The white paper was developed by the NFC Forum’s Consumer Electronics SIG (Special Interest Group).
  • Toshiba Corporation (Tokyo, Japan) announced the launch of the TC35670FTG, a low power consumption, dual function IC that supports both Bluetooth low energy (LE) communications and NFC Type 3 Tag. Previously, CE manufacturers needed to include two separate ICs if they wanted to include both functions. Sample shipments started in September.
  • Numerous NFC hardware and software companies announced new products. Some of these press releases are posted on the NFC World Congress press page.

-Matthew Brennesholtz