RFID News Roundup

By Admin

NXP, STMicro partner on NFC API for Android mobile phones; RFM unveils module enabling the addition of WirelessHART to RF solutions; TJS intros starter kit for RFID-enabled jewelry inventory solution; NFC mobile payments trial to begin in Brazil; Innovision Research & Technology offers licensing for next-gen NFC IP; French lab, Nokia researchers develop new RF circuit.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

NXP, STMicro Partner on NFC API for Android Mobile Phones

Near Field Communication (NFC) vendors STMicroelectronics and NXP, along with smart card vendor Trusted Logic and communications technologies provider Stollmann, have joined forces to promote a common hardware-independent application programming interface (API) for NFC applications on mobile phones and other devices running the Android operating system. The companies will release an update of their recently published Android API to the community as a proposal for a mutual standard. The partners believe the common NFC API will spur developers to create NFC applications for the Android environment, such as mobile payments, transport and event ticketing, as well as share data directly from their Android phone. These applications would then be distributed to consumers through app stores. The API, according to the companies, was developed in partnership with a variety of mobile network operators, handset manufacturers and NFC controller providers. It is supported by protocol stacks compatible with major NFC chip platforms from STMicroelectronics and NXP, and can be used for mobile phones, mobile Internet devices, PCs and more. The API specification is accessible via a single email request to
NFCforAndroid@trusted-logic.com and
nfc@stollmann.de. An Apache License 2.0 model was selected to provide a legal framework to new contributions.

RFM Unveils Module Enabling the Addition of WirelessHART to RF Solutions

Dallas-based RF Monolithics (RFM), a manufacturer of wireless communications solutions, has unveiled an RF module compliant with the IEC 62591 WirelessHART standard. According to the company, WirelessHART is a wireless sensor networking (WSN) technology for process automation allowing battery-powered sensors to be deployed in previously hard-to-reach locations, while providing wire-like reliability. The company's new module, the XDM2510H, is built on Dust Networks' IA-510 WirelessHART system, and provides a UART serial port for connection to sensors and an RF connector for an antenna, thereby removing the need for any RF engineering by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), RFM reports. The module works with RFM's XG2510HE gateway product, allowing for network connectivity either locally or anywhere across the Internet. "RFM is pleased to be offering Dust Networks' leading WirelessHART technology in module form allowing field device manufacturers of all sizes to add WirelessHART capability to their products, quickly, simply, and economically," said Tim Cutler, the director of RFM's M2M products division, in a prepared statement. "RFM believes the WirelessHART standard can truly offer high reliability, battery operated, wireless connectivity in the difficult industrial environments where it will be deployed." RFM offers a developer's kit (XDM2510HDK) to help design engineers, which includes four XDM2510H modules, four XDM2510H development boards, an XG2510HE gateway, an Ethernet cable, five serial cables, 9-volt batteries and wall-mount power supplies for each development board, antennas and RF cables, software and manuals. The XDM2510HDK developer's kit is expected to be available by the end of this month from distributors Acal, Avnet, Digi-Key, Mouser Electronics, Nu Horizons and Welotec (in Germany).

TJS Intros Starter Kit for RFID-enabled Jewelry Inventory Solution

TJS, a privately held company that provides RFID solutions for the jewelry industry, has introduced its ZeroShrink Starter Kit. The ZeroShrink solution is designed to help jewelers track inventory and curb product shrinkage using high-speed scanners and passive high-frequency (HF) RFID tags compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. The kit includes 200 of TJS' RFID tags, a handheld HF RFID reader that can be plugged into a PC for uploading tag data, and inventory-management software. The tags are embedded on paper labels measuring 12 millimeters by 18 millimeters (0.5 inch by 0.7 inch), and can be clamped onto jewelry or affixed to bar-code labels. The ZeroShrink Starter Kit is priced at $449.

Brazilian Mobile Phone Operator Oi to Begin NFC Payments Trial

SMS-based mobile payments service provider Oi Paggo, owned by Brazilian mobile phone service operator Oi, is launching a Near Field Communication (NFC) trial with Gemalto, a French smart card and digital security company. The trial is part of several initiatives that Oi has planned in an effort to build out its mobile payments business. The trial represents the first major SIM-based NFC mobile payment program in Brazil, Gemalto reports. Gemalto is providing its N-Flex SIM product, which incorporates an NFC chip attached to a flexible antenna and can be added to a variety of mobile phones. The NFC technology conforms to the Single-Wire Protocol (SWP), which specifies the interface between an NFC chip and a phone's Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) or a SIM card. The trial is designed to let existing mobile handset users take advantage of contactless payment technology, and will first include merchants and then be extended to transportation companies. According to the GSM Association, Oi Paggo will also introduce a loyalty scheme, whereby customers of the contactless payment service who spend 10 Brazilian reais ($5.50) will receive $1 Brazilian reais ($0.55) back. Another initiative will offer customers incentives to add credit to prepaid accounts through the service.

Innovision Research & Technology Offers Licensing of Next-Gen NFC IP

Innovision Research & Technology, a London-based RFID and electronics design firm, is offering version 2 of its Gem NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to semiconductor companies that want to license the technology to integrate NFC into chipsets for mobile phones and consumer electronics devices. Innovision's Gem is semiconductor intellectual property (IP) that allows for NFC reader/writer, peer-to-peer and card/tag emulation functionality. According to the company, the technology enables semiconductor firms to develop low-voltage, low-cost NFC capability, either for standalone NFC solutions or as part of system-on-chip (SoC) integrated solutions. It provides NFC interoperability with existing and emerging standards for contactless payment, mass-transit ticketing, access control and smart objects, including support for the ISO 18092 and ISO 21481 NFC standards and the ISO 14443 (A and B) and ISO 15693 RFID standards. The Gem 2 architecture is a 1.8-volt NFC solution, and can now be implemented on 65nm and 40nm CMOS processes (the first version of GEM IP operated at 3.3 volts and was suitable for 130nm and 90nm processes), which Innovision says is vital for integration into high-volume SoC designs targeted at mobile phones, consumer electronics devices and PCs. "Innovision is the only company to have developed a 1.8V NFC solution, and this is now accelerating the creation of high-performance SoCs that fully integrate NFC with other complementary wireless technologies," said Stephen Graham, Innovision's VP of marketing, in a prepared statement. "We have several major global semiconductor companies who are already integrating GEM 2 into their SoCs." GEM 2 optionally supports a battery-off mode, in which the NFC solution may be powered from the RF field even when the mobile phone's battery is fully depleted. It supports standard secure element interfaces, including the Single Wire Protocol (SWP) defined by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for interfacing with the SIM card in a mobile phone.

French Lab, Nokia Researchers Develop New RF Circuit

CEA-Leti, the Electronics and Information Technology Laboratory of the French Atomic Energy Commission, and the Nokia Research Center (NRC) have announced they have developed an RF front-end circuit that allows very high data rate content exchange between a reader—typically a mobile phone—and a memory tag. According to CEA-Leti's Bertrand Gomez, the memory tag used with the circuit is made of a standard non-volatile memory (NVM) device connected to the circuit. NVM content can be read by the circuit and transferred over the impulse ultra-wideband (I-UWB) air interface. In write mode of operation, the circuit redirects data coming from the reader toward the NVM device. This circuit is currently used in the Nokia Explore and Share research prototype. According to the two groups, the circuit exhibits a data rate of 112 megabits per second, which they indicate is faster than traditional RFID systems. The circuit combines two radio technologies: i-UWB for data transfer, and narrow-band ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) signaling for synchronization and remote powering. The circuit can power itself from the narrow-band signal, and provide power for an external non-volatile memory (NVM) device. The circuit also includes a battery-powered mode to increase the reading distance. CEA-Leti and NRC will deliver a presentation on the circuit at the 2010 Symposium on Very-large-scale integration (VLSI) Technology and Circuits, being held on June 15-18, in Honolulu, Hawaii.