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NXP, Sony Partner to Make Chip for NFC Apps

This joint venture will promote adoption of near-field communication technology—especially in Asia and Europe.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
When incorporated into an NFC device, the combined chip will enable users traveling between Europe and Asia to take advantage of services offered on either the Mifare or FeliCa platform, explains Francesco Prato, NFC business development manager for NXP Semiconductors. The device, he says, will be able to switch between the two platforms.

"The FeliCa services are great in Japan," explains Prato, who is based in Europe but is currently in Japan on a routine business trip, "but right now, I can't use them with my [Mifare-based] phone."

London commuters use the Oyster card to pay mass-transit fares. The card utilizes the Mifare chip to secure and process payments. In Hong Kong, commuters access a similar device, the Octopus card, which incorporates a FeliCa chip, also used widely in contactless smart-card applications in Japan and Singapore. Mobile FeliCa is a version of the chip used in mobile phones operated by FeliCa Networks, a joint venture launched by Sony and Japanese mobile phone operator DoCoMo. The IC enables consumers to use their phones to make payments on a FeliCa-supported payment infrastructure.

Thus far, an estimated 1.2 billion Mifare chips have been shipped around the world, Prato claims, with more than 7 million Mifare-compliant reader modules sold. Current shipments of FeliCa chips stand at 170 million units, 30 million of which are used in mobile phones in Japan, according to Sony.

NXP and Sony will each continue to manufacture and sell Mifare and FeliCa chips individually. The two companies have been working together to promote NFC technology for the past two years. In cooperation with other sponsors of NFC industry-adoption group NFC Forum, they are presently developing NFC standards for chips, readers and applications (see NFC Forum Announces Technology Architecture).

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