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NFC Forum Releases Spec Supporting Use of ISO 15693 Tags

The Type 5 Tag Operation Specification provides a standardized way for NFC-enabled devices to read ISO 15693 tags, and also to write NFC Data Exchange Format messages to the tags, enabling greater functionality.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 14, 2015

The NFC Forum, an organization formed in 2004 by technology companies Philips Semiconductors (now known as NXP Semiconductors), Sony and Nokia to promote the implementation and standardization of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, has published a new spec, officially called the Type 5 Tag Operation Specification, which is intended to add support for and standardize the use of 13.56 MHz passive RFID tags compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, and to add an active communication mode for peer-to-peer communication.

Most existing NFC readers are already capable of reading and encoding ISO 15693 tags and comply with the Type 5 Tag Operation Specification. (NFC technology that allows communication with ISO 15693 tags is known as NFC-V.) However, the Type 5 Tag specification differs from ISO 15693 in one important way: Compared with ISO 15693 readers, NFC-V devices support a much shorter read distance (only a few centimeters) and a faster communication rate.

The NFC Forum's Jürgen Böhler
The NFC Forum is also releasing three candidate specifications that are updates to existing NFC specs, to include NFC-V technology and an active communication mode that the organization hopes solution providers will download, sample and provide feedback for, prior to adopting these specifications.

Until the publication of the new spec, the NFC Forum standards indicate that NFC RFID readers (such as those built into smartphones, tablets and handheld computers) be able to read four types of passive 13.56 MHz passive NFC RFID tags: Types 1 and 2, based on the ISO 14443A standard; Type 3, based on the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) X 6319-4, also known as FeliCa; and Type 4, compatible with ISO 14443A and B.

The NFC-V specification offers solution providers a standardized way to develop systems in which NFC-compliant readers can also read and encode ISO 15693 tags. It also provides a standardized way to instruct a reader to conduct a specific action, such as directing an NFC-enabled phone to a website, or prompting it to undertake actions such as calling for a taxi by reading a tag, and then following a prompt to make the taxi request associated with that particular phone and location. Tags operating according to the Type 5 Tag Operation specification will be known as Type 5 tags.

The NFC Forum's board of directors recently opted to adopt the new specification as a way to standardize RF communication between NFC readers and new or legacy tags compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. While numerous NFC-enabled devices already support the reading of ISO 15693 RFID tags—thereby allowing RFID solution providers to offer implementations that store messages on such tags—not every NFC-compliant reader does so.

"Some NFC-enabled devices already support communication with ISO/IEC 15693 tags," says Jürgen Böhler, the NFC Forum's Technical Committee vice-chair. "That's why it was important for the NFC Forum to develop the Type 5 Tag Operation Specification."

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