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NFC Forum Announces Technology Architecture

The group says its first standards will be released during the third quarter.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 07, 2006Near-field communication (NFC) technology is being commercially deployed by a Frankfurt, Germany, public transit authority. The technology has been tested—or is currently being tested—by a long and growing list of merchants, payment networks and other service providers, including Atlanta's Philips Arena.

Now the technology, which enables RF communication between mobile electronic devices for applications such as payments or data exchange, is getting closer to standardization. This week, the NFC Forum, an association promoting the adoption of NFC technology, announced its technology architecture. Once complete, the architecture will include protocols for how NFC devices will establish communication, exchange data and interoperate. The architecture also lists the type of RFID tags all NFC-compliant devices will need to be able to read.

The announcement is important, says Erik Michielsen, director of RFID and machine-to-machine research at ABI Research, because it shows "substance and progress" from the NFC Forum. "In terms of substance, the Forum is creating the pieces that are necessary to make NFC applications [contactless payments, data exchange or device pairing] a reality," he says. According to Michielsen, the emerging specifications and NFC Forum working groups are addressing security and interoperability issues. The Forum, he adds, is "putting the framework in place to enable realistic market development" of NFC technology.

The announcement that NFC standards are forthcoming also shows progress by the NFC Forum toward its goal of enabling NFC adoption, Michielsen notes, and shows "a lot of buy-in" from various member companies.

More than 80 firms currently make up the NFC Forum, reports Gerhard Romen, the organization's marketing committee chairman and Nokia's head of global market development. These include founding members Nokia, Philips and Sony, as well as sponsoring members MasterCard International, Microsoft, Motorola, NEC, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Visa International.

Early this year, a number of telecommunications firms, including Sprint, SK Telecom and Swisscom Mobile, joined up. Mobile phones can easily be designed to function as NFC devices and take advantage of near-field communication applications. Therefore, the support of mobile communications carriers is vital to the success of NFC technology in business and consumer applications, says Michielsen, because carriers play an essential role in getting NFC-enabled devices into users' hands.

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