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NXP Releases New NFC Tag Chips for New Applications

The company's NTAG21x series supports such functions as tracking which tags have been accessed by consumers, off-line authentication via a digital signature and the ability for a tag to count the number of times it is read.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 01, 2012With the goal of providing greater flexibility to the burgeoning non-payment Near Field Communication (NFC) technology market, California integrated circuit (IC) manufacturer NXP Semiconductors has developed a new series of NFC high-frequency (HF) passive RFID chips intended to make serialization easier, by providing a URL "mirror" allowing businesses to track which NFC tags are being used at any given time, and enabling smartphone readers to unlock signatures on NFC tags online. The features are all part of the company's effort to provide tag chips for more diverse uses of NFC technology in non-payment environments. The four chips within the new NTAG21x family are now available as samples, and will begin shipping to tag manufacturers and other customers by the end of this year.

NXP Semiconductors, which provides a variety of ultrahigh-frequency (840 to 960 MHz) and HF (13.56 MHz) RFID chips, is releasing the new product family as its second generation of ICs intended specifically for NFC tags and applications.

Giancarlo Cutrignelli, NXP's senior global marketing manager
The company has been focusing on NFC technology development for several years, initially with chips for RFID readers embedded in mobile phones and tablets. In fact, says Giancarlo Cutrignelli, NXP's senior global marketing manager, the firm has sold 100 million such chips for NFC-enabled reader devices to date. "The market has shown tremendous growth" during the past year, he says, and while NXP has provided the ICs for readers, it found that there was a shortage of NFC tag chips able to meet the diverse requirements of the NFC applications being launched worldwide. In September 2011, NXP released its N203 tag IC, which he says "was a tremendous success," based on high sales to customers in the non-payment NFC market. However, this second generation of NFC tag chips—the NTAG21x family—will enable the development of new tags with greater functionality to meet the diverse needs of NFC technology users.

The four chips have varying amounts of memory: The NTAG210 chip, with just 48 bytes of user memory, is the least expensive, and is intended for the mass-market use case of tags requiring only a very simple function, such as directing a smartphone or other RFID-reading device to a URL. The NTAG213 model has 144 bytes of memory, the NTAG 215 version has 504 bytes and the NTAG216 chip, at 888 bytes, has the most memory. Unlike the NTAG203 chip, all of these come with functionality that includes password protection, mirroring, a serialization service to enable that mirroring, and a counter function to count read taps and authentication signatures for authentication applications that can be read offline by any NFC reader. NXP also offers a fifth chip, the NTAG 216F model, which is a version of the NTAG 216 chip that provides a sleep mode.

There are a wide variety of NFC deployments currently underway or at the pilot stage globally, Cutrignelli says, which require increasingly flexible tags. For example, the print industry uses NFC chips embedded in business cards that, in some cases, require high memory to store data that could be accessed via an NFC-enabled phone—or that, in other cases, simply require a link to a URL. The smartphone industry has begun marketing preprogrammed tags for changing the phone's functions, such as switching a ring tone or connecting to a navigation application with the tap of phone against a tag. This typically requires a high-memory tag.

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