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Philips, SK Telecom to Test NFC in Seoul

The two companies are launching a trial of Near Field Communication technology in Seoul, Korea, that will let participants use their mobile phones to download music, unlock doors and pay for goods and services.
By Claire Swedberg
May 26, 2006Philips Semiconductors and South Korean mobile telephone communications company SK Telecom (SKT) are launching a trial in Seoul, Korea, using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to download content, unlock doors and pay for goods and services. The trial will include about 400 participants, about half of which will use phones manufactured with a Philips' NFC RFID chip, antenna and microcontroller. The other half will use phones retrofitted with what Philips and SKT describe as "plug and play" add-on NFC hardware (an NFC chip and antenna).

SK Telecom is providing the commercialized payment services, says Bettina Kuhrt, Philips Semiconductors' program manager for NFC projects, while Philips is contributing NFC phone hardware, software, reader chips and applications know-how. Philips is also working with a variety of partners for this pilot, including operators, service providers, handset manufacturers, credit card companies, consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers.

Bettina Kuhrt, Philips Semiconductors
The company has been involved in several similar trials, Kuhrt says, in the United States, Europe (see French NFC Payment Trial Kicks Off), Taiwan and other areas. Since July 2005, Philips has been working with Taiwan's Proximity Mobile Transaction Service Alliance (PMTSA) to make secure payments using NFC for public transportation. "I think, by having these trials, we prove there is a global interest in this technology," Kuhrt says, "and we are able to bring a benefit to users, wherever they are."

The NFC-enabled phones, equipped with Philips' RFID chips compliant with the ISO 14443A standard for contactless cards (smart cards), can be read at a range of less than 10 centimeters (4 inches). As such, the phones can function like contactless cards to pay for goods and services or access facilities. The phones can also serve as RFID interrogators (readers) to read tags, download data and enable peer-to-peer communication with other phones and devices.

According to Kuhrt, the Korean pilot begins in June and will run for about six months. During that time, participants will use their phones to unlock doors and read active posters (i.e., those with embedded RFID tags). For access-control applications, the users will be able to open doors by holding their phones close to an adjacent interrogator. With active posters, users will present their phones close to the poster and download such things as wallpaper, ring tones, music and public transportation schedules.

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