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Italian Alpine Resort Takes Near Field Communications for Ride

Tourists will be loaned NFC-enabled phones to download information and special offers and make reservations, or receive NFC-enabled contactless smart cards encoded with promotional coupons.
By Beth Bacheldor
Nov 21, 2008Just before Christmas, several hundred tourists visiting ski resorts and hotels in the Italian Alps will be able, among other things, to obtain weather and other information, receive coupons and promotions, and make reservations, using mobile phones and smart cards equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC) inlays. The tourists are participating in a region-wide NFC trial sponsored and run by the Store Logistics and Payment with NFC (StoLPaN) consortium.

StoLPaN is a pan-European group of companies and academic institutions focused on facilitating NFC, and supported by the European Commission's Information Society Technologies (IST) program. NFC is a passive, high-frequency RFID protocol for mobile electronic devices, and the industry association NFC Forum has established standards regarding how NFC tags and interrogators share data. NFC systems have a shorter read range than ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) and microwave systems that use far-field communication.

Prato Francesco
The Italy trial is being managed by research company Ennova Research, with support from the University of Rome's CATTID (Television and Distance Learning Techniques Application Centre), the Veneto regional government, and AFF, an NFC applications and systems research and development company located in Hungary. The project will employ various types of NFC-enabled phones; contactless point-of-sale (POS) terminals from Ingenico; NXP Semiconductors' NFC-compliant RFID inlays based on ISO 18092, and Mifare technology based on the ISO 14443 RFID standard, which NFC supports; Ennova Research's back-end services and software for managing and disseminating the data; and security systems developed by Austria's Graz University of Technology.

The trial is slated to run from December 2008 to May 2009, but will likely be extended if successful, says Francesco Prato, executive VP of Ennova Research. "In fact," he notes, "we are working with other partners to extend it later in 2009, in other Italian regions as well."

The University of Rome has devised tourist profiles covering different backgrounds and technological experience, which are being used to decide who will be offered the NFC-enabled mobile phones and smart cards. The infrastructure of Ingenico POS terminals, Ennova's back-end services and software, and related security software are now being installed, and interoperability and performance tests are being conducted (both on site and in labs) through the end of November. According to Prato, the trial is expected to officially commence just before Christmas.

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