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STMicroelectronics Announces Single-Chip NFC System

STMicroelectronics introduced a system-on-chip for near field communications (NFC). The new product combines standardized NFC reading capability, controller functions, software, and memory into a single chip for integration with electronic devices. It is scheduled to go into production in Q4 2008.
Feb 21, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 21, 2008—STMicroelectronics has combined near field communications (NFC) reading, processing, and memory functions into a single chip. The Swiss semiconductor manufacturer announced its new ST21NFCA system-on-chip with standardized NFC reading capabilities, 112 kilobytes of user ROM, 4 kilobytes of RAM, plus controller functionality and software in a single 13-micron chip that can function as a reader and a tag. The product is intended for integration into cellular phone handsets and other devices.

NFC is a contactless, short range technology based on RFID. Its proponents hope NFC will enable a wide array of mobile commerce services for cell phones, such as contactless payment and ticketing, interaction with "smart posters" from which consumers can download media and buy tickets, and access control. Most NFC devices in use today are embedded in cell phones.

"The driver for NFC now is mobile phones for payment applications," Serge Fruhauf, marketing development manager for NFC at STMicroelectronics, told RFID Update. "We don't know what other architectures will be adopted by industry. The reason to have a system on a chip is to have flexibility to integrate with many different devices."

STMicroelectronics will offer an evaluation kit with software for developers. The kit and engineering samples are expected to be available next quarter, with volume production planned to begin in Q4. The ST21NFCA will cost $3 in quantities of 1,000, according to the company.

Analyst firm ABI Research of Oyster Bay, New York, recently predicted 6.52 million NFC-enabled devices will be sold this year (see NFC Projections Revised Down (Again)). ABI Research has twice revised its NFC sales projections downward, as adoption has been slower than expected.

Business issues, more than technical ones, are often cited as the leading obstacle to increased NFC use. For example, cell phone-enabled mobile payment applications require participation by the handset makers, cellular carriers, and merchants, who must all be enticed by the prospect of widespread consumer adoption.

"NFC technology is still in its infancy. I think there will be a lot of trials around the world this year as people test different business models and try to see adoption patterns," said Fruhauf. "NFC systems may need to connect to handsets, SIM cards, PCs, or other devices. We wanted to offer a solution for NFC for wherever there is a business model."

See RFID Forum at MIT Discusses the Future of NFC for more perspective on the NFC market and the outlook for adoption.

Read the announcement from STMicroelectronics
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