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Latest NFC Specs Offer Interoperability to a Growing Market

The NFC Forum's 2017 Technical Specification offers new specs and modifications to existing ones intended to ensure legacy and future Near Field Communication technologies can interoperate as the number of NFC applications swells.
By Claire Swedberg

The Analog Specification modification is designed to ensure that existing NFC readers, such as those built into phones and tablets, will be able to read new NFC tags, while readers will also be able to interrogate legacy NFC tags and cards. The specification includes the field-strength requirements for the RF field, the signal definition for transferring data from one device to the other, and sensitivity requirements to receive data from a remote NFC device.

The modification aims to enable technology to keep up with future hardware changes. For instance, some transit companies are transitioning their NFC-based payment systems to enable payments via smartphones. In that case, instead of buying a ticket with an NFC tag built into it, passengers could buy a digital version of a transit pass and store that data on their phone. Then, they could simply tap their phone against the NFC reader—potentially the same reader that is also scanning paper tickets or cards.

The specification is important as NFC devices become smaller, the NFC Forum reports, with smaller antennas in some cases, such as when smart watches or other wearable devices come with built-in NFC readers. With the specification, technology vendors will be able to provide assurances to customers that their devices will be readable, and that they will read NFC transmissions whether they are the larger, standard-sized versions or very small.

In fact, Hunter says, the NFC industry tests representatives for three antenna sizes: one for smartphones, another used for stationary readers, and a third size for small wearables.

The new testing from the NFC Forum ensures that tags conform to the specs (see NFC Forum Incorporates Tags into Its Certification Program). By using the Tag Certification program to gain NFC Forum Tag certification, a vendor can assure customers that its tags will operate within a variety of applications, including for providing information via a smart poster or accessing loyalty points or coupons at a store.

The third specification that will impact the industry is the NFC Controller Interface Technical Specification Version 2.0. This spec is aimed at technology vendors, such as smartphone manufacturers, and provides a standard to ensure that as new NFC controllers come into the market, they will adapt to the manufacturer's existing software layers.

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