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NFC Commercialization Reaches Key Milestone

NFC Forum last week published four tag type specifications that address the manner in which NFC tags and readers should communicate. Their publication is an important milestone in the commercialization of NFC and could result in commercial products with built-in NFC being available by year-end.
Aug 08, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 8, 2007—NFC Forum last week published four tag type specifications that address the manner in which NFC tags and readers should communicate. According to David Turner, NFC Forum board member and manager of the Industry Standards & Leadership team within the Mobile & Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft, the publication of these specifications is an important milestone in the commercialization of NFC.

Recall that NFC, or near field communication, is the contactless technology based on RFID that proponents hope will enable a wide array of mobile commerce services for cell phones. Various proprietary forms of such contactless technology already exist around the world, but the idea behind NFC is to standardize them so that an ecosystem of hardware, software, and services may evolve. "The NFC Forum was created so that anybody's reader could read anybody's tag, and vice versa," explained Microsoft's Turner.

The four tag specifications published last week are based on existing protocols, and their purpose is to strictly formalize what is considered valid NFC. Readers must be able to communicate with each of the four tag specifications in order to be NFC certified. "The idea is that an NFC reader-writer will be required to be able read or write any one of these four tag formats," Turner said.

The purpose of having four specifications is to offer developers some choice about which is best for their application. "It gives the market some freedom among different options to optimize for their solution," said Turner. It also leverages a greater percentage of existing deployments. For example, three of the tag specifications are based on the ISO 14443 standard, while one is based on Sony's FeliCa. By accommodating this variety, the NFC Forum both leveraged existing systems and prevented them from being made obsolete by NFC. "We wanted to find an interoperable solution without sacrificing the investment in existing infrastructure," recounted Turner.

Publication of the tag specifications is not the final step in a complete NFC definition, but it is a major one. Important enough, in fact, that Turner believes some developers will not wait for the official publication of the few remaining specifications and instead move forward with product development now. "We've done enough that people could go ahead and start building applications," he said, predicting, "By year-end you will find commercially available devices that will have NFC contactless reader capabilities built in."

He noted, however, that the NFC Forum is not aggressively driving product development just yet. That will likely come sometime in 2008, when the association expects to have published the remaining specifications and developed a logo certification program.

For developers that are eager to move ahead, the new tag specifications are available for download at no charge on the NFC Forum website.

Read the announcement from the NFC Forum
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