NFC Introduction

NFC stands for “Near Field Communications”, stuff and marries together the two technologies of contactless smart cards and cellphones. NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity standard. With the increased adoption of RFID contactless smart-cards to support a broad range of applications, discount such as access, payment, and ticketing, and the commercial availability of NFC-enabled PDAs and cell phones, the convergence of NFC with RFID is gaining interest.

BrightCard’s NFC Expertise

BrightCard has been involved in some of the early trials and deployments of NFC in a B2B (business-to-business) environment, which we believe will precede mass consumer adoption for B2C applications. While over time, NFC will certainly become a retail product, initial deployments will be more limited in scope, and focused on very specific, tightly defined objectives.

With our sister company, ITN, BrightCard has demonstrated the deployment at major events worldwide the ability for individuals to use NFC phones to facilitate a basic business transaction – the electronic exchange of business card information. We have designed systems to read and write business card contact information from a cellphone, and are able to deploy these solutions as a very simple demonstration of the power of peer-to-peer communications provided by NFC.

Please click below to see a film of two of our early NFC deployments:

  • Using NFC phone to communicate business card information between two devices.
  • NFC Video

  • Using NFC to make a secure payment transaction.
  • NFC Video

BrightCard is also at the leading edge of the development of new payment services using NFC, based on the PayPass and ExpressPay protocols.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to discover more about this exciting new technology. You will find below some general background information on NFC technology.

NFC Background

Pioneered by Philips and jointly developed with Sony, the NFC standard specifies a way for cells phones, PDAs, and other wireless devices to establish peer-to-peer (P2P) communications. NFC enables portable devices to exchange information and initiate applications automatically when they are brought in close proximity, or touched together. NFC operates in the unregulated RF band of 13.56MHz and fully complies with existing contactless smart-card technologies, standards, and protocols such as FeliCa (Sony) and MIFARE® (Philips). NFC-enabled devices are interoperable with contactless smart-cards and smart-card readers conforming to these protocols. NFC range is approximately 0-20 cm (up to 8 in.) and communication is terminated either by a command from the application or when devices move out of range.

Today, all the leading mobile device manufacturers are supporting NFC, and services are being considered by the major cellphone operators around the world. NFC is already compatible with millions of contactless cards in use today, which will facilitate its widespread deployment into mass markets beginning in 2007.

There is a high degree of technology convergence and application cross-over between mobile and contactless technologies. Mobile telephony is characterized by high penetration and the demand of access and applications by the user on their “personal device.” Convenience and simplicity are key attributes of the contactless and NFC space. The market is looking to exploit these contactless benefits with the “connectivity” offered by cellular telephony in order to marry local transaction services with remote transaction services. With bi-directional NFC capabilities on the phone, it acts as both contactless card and card reader to facilitate credit card or ID card access, converging with the ubiquitous connectivity of GSM.

Contactless technology offers speed and convenience across all types of applications, whether they are payment or transactional in nature or related to proximity access. There has recently been a rapid growth in the consumer adoption of proximity applications such as transit fare collection, physical and logical access, and the emergence of contactless payment with programs such as MasterCard’s PayPass and American Express’ ExpressPay.

NFC technology allows devices to behave as a reader and as a card. Thus, it can receive commands from any standard proximity contactless reader and send back responses in the same manner as would a contactless smart card. With this feature, any consumer electronic device can interact with millions of readers already in place everywhere in the world to exchange data or to perform secure transactions, regardless of the access protocol.

NFC chips can be embedded in printed materials like posters, which would then allow the download of relevant data or urls into NFC devices. This allows for the communication of key data to/from mobile devices and fixed locations.

NFC-enabled devices add another level of security over the traditional smart-card, as it can be powered on/off or include a PIN code for higher-value transactions. A lost of stolen device can be disabled over the air from a secure network server. And for applications that require tighter security and perhaps anti-counterfeiting measures, chips can be used to store biometric information for identification.

NFC Applications

There are a wide range of potential applications for NFC, which can generally be grouped into three basic categories:

  • Short-range, near-contact mobile transactions: access control or transport/event ticketing, where the NFC-enabled device storing the access code or ticket is presented near a reader. This also includes mobile payments (“m-commerce”) applications where financial transactions are confirmed by entering a password or simply tapping the reader for a small-value transaction. Simple data capture such as picking up an Internet URL from a smart tag on a product, poster or advertisement is also included here.
  • Short-range, near-contact linking transactions: two NFC-enabled devices can be connected to enable a P2P transfer of data such as business card information, music, exchanging images or synchronizing files
  • Short range, near-contact discovery transactions: users can explore a device’s capabilities to find out which functionalities and services are offered, since NFC-enabled devices may offer multiple functionalities.

Examples of environments which lend themselves particularly well to NFC technology include:

  • Opening door locks or car doors
  • Payment for concessions at a sport facility
  • Obtaining information on events, concerts, or other publicity-related
  • download of games, music, MP3 files, videos, software, and other files
  • download reservations and/or tickets to a cell phone or PDA
  • checking-in to a hotel by touching the handheld device to the terminal or kiosk
  • upload pictures from a cellphone to a NFC-enabled television, kiosk, or computer
  • Accessing secure networks using encrypted keys in an NFC device

By integrating NFC applications with existing mobile services, mobile operators can generate new revenue streams by, for example:

  • Charging customers subscription fees for NFC services
  • Charging retailers/service providers fees to use the system
  • Levying fees for individual purchases or other transactions; or
  • Applying service charges for adding value to the electronic cash value stored on a mobile phone via a mobile service.

NFC Standards

NFC technology represents a series of international standards, including ISO 18092, ISO 21481, ECMA (340, 352 and 356) and ETSI TS 102 190. NFC is compatible with Sony’s FeliCa card and the broadly established contactless smart card infrastructure based on ISO 14443 (MIFARE®) technology.

More information can be found at www.nfcforum.org.