What Is NFC In Mobile? Near Field Communication Explained
NXP, before NFC explained
Economically defined, with revenue of 9.41 billion US dollars in 2018, NXP Semiconductors N.V. is a Dutch global semiconductor manufacturer headquartered in Eindhoven, Netherlands. And technically, if you’re not too familiar with NXP as a company, we will explain it in the best possible manner.
Apart from that, we will also go over to the Introduction to RFID and NFC. What are the benefits of NFC, what can embed NFC into your device do for you? And then we are going to discuss our actual solutions showing you some of these boards and do some demos for you.
So, a short introduction to NXP – they are a global semiconductor company offices all over the world, based in Europe. But, they do have a large office at many placed. In 2012, they had a 4 billion dollar revenue with more than 25,000 employees and currently, they are actually in what’s called as Identification Business Unit.
So, NXP is separated into different units and product lines and their microcontroller products are actually in what’s called computing. So, today we are going to be talking about products from both identification and also from computing. So, micros and also their NFC readers, ICS.
The first and foremost thing to keep in mind is that you must know about Radio Frequency Identification, in general, which is known as RFID. Because of NFC kind of builds on the existing RFID that was already out there. So in passive, RFID, is some kind of host system communicating with your readers. It is typically made up of some kind of host controller and an RF front end with an Antenna and there’s a tag on the other end with a loop Antenna as well.
The RF field generated by the reader powers the tag, so there’s no battery inside the tag. And, then you can change the data both ways. You can have multiple tags in the field as well this is just a picture of showing one tag. How does that power transfer work? And the concept you can think of it as a transformer. If you remember your electromagnetics, you can think of it. So basically this is an example of one of their reader boards. There is a turn loop antenna on the premiere of this board. So that can be modelled just as an inductor and then on the tag side, there’s also a several turn antenna.
So, you can think of it as just the air transformer where the reader is the primary coil, the tags, a secondary coil. So, the reader generates an alternating magnetic seizing, alternating current through the inductor, you get lines of flux flowing and those lines of flux have to go through the tag coil and the tag harvest its power from the induced voltage. From that, so the reader generates RF field, it transmits power and data to the tag and the tag responds. Basically, by switching a load in parallel, with its in with this coil, this load presents a variable load to the reader and the reader cold.
And, its a very small change in the RF field that can be detected by the reader, receiver and that show the tag responds. It is good and they call that a load modulation scheme. So, this is just traditional RFID. We wanted to bring up a little more RFID history, before getting into NFC. There are three kinds of main RFID technologies and actually, NXP is involved in all of them. We are just focussed on the NFC portion, but we do have 125 Kilohertz low frequency – RFID historical RFID technology that NXP is also involved in. This compare, we are going to compare the three different technologies, typically RFI 125 Kilohertz. If you have a large reader antenna, you can get up to maybe 1.2 meters a read range.
It works well in harsh environments, so both on fluids. It is very popular on animal bodies, where there’s fluid inside the body, so its copied popular in tracking cattle and it also can work pretty well in somewhat medically environments. One issue with 125 is transponders or the tags tend to be pretty expensive because you typically need a lot of turns on your tag and that increases the cost, a lot of turns on the antenna, but the readers can be made very cheaply at 125. NXP reader and tag solutions at 125, their high tag line.
History of NFC (Near Field Communication)
NFC has been around since 2002, invented by Philips back then. According to the statical and historically provided data, NXP and Sony jointly invented NFC. In 2004, the NFC forum established by NXP, Sony and Nokia. In 2006, First commercial rollouts in Europe. In 2018, NFC forum membership increases to over 150 member companies from all areas of the NFC ecosystem. In 2011, NFC open-source Android was built and In 2012, NFC APIs in windows 8 were placed.
Introduction of NFC (Near Field Communication)
Short Range (~10cm), 13.56 MHz contactless technology enabling “intentional” communication.
Standardized in ISO 18092.
Compatible with existing contactless cards and reader infrastructure.
Reader and card mode, made possible in same device.
Device to device connectivity.
Data exchange rate upto 424kbit/ second.
NFC Forum is an important aspect of NFC. It’s a global, special interest group (SIG). Non-profit established for a few different reasons. One is to advance the industry adoption of NFC into various use cases and also a big goal of NFC was to achieve global interoperability. No matter where you went in the world. So, historically, with RFID, there were proprietary technologies all over the world for example – type A and type B was big in Europe Pelican. It was being in Japan, so it was difficult to take whatever tag you had or whatever reader you had to various countries and they work.
And, if C is a global standard trying to be designed wherever you go in the world, your tag and your NFC devices will be able to communicate with one another and also make sure they are focussing on the future roadmap for NFC developments. And, there are now more than 180 member companies in the NFC forum, but just growing daily. One other important aspect of NFC is they defined a common data format for storing your data and they call this NFC data exchange format or end eff maybe.
You have heard of end F, so the goal was – if you have an end of the message, any NFC device out there will be able to recognize that message, so no more proprietary kind of data storage unless you want to go proprietary. Of course, so its a common data exchange format you have your end F message, you can have multiple records in the same message and each record has a header, where you kind of define what kind of record is this. So, there are various pre-defined types. For example, A, B, C and D, Near Field Communication is a thesis topic in itself.
All you need to keep in mind is that is the more you learn, the more you grow in the field of NFC. You can have text, you can have an SMS text message phone number, various messages stored in one a def message and it tells you how to store this data in and format. So, what we going to be talking about a lot today is the embedded reader. This is just a block diagram, just introducing an embedded reader. What it generally looks like – be focussing on our LPC microcontrollers and NXP’s contact us reader ICS as well. So, this is the RF front end mainly controlled by this host micro.
Then you have your loop antenna and you need some matching components, external to match your transmitter to the whatever antenna you would sell on your device. There’s typically not always, but there’s typically some kind of back in host set, its also communicating with and power and then you know you can communicate with Near Field. So, NXP and Sony are focusing on the LPC on a contactless reader.
So, NFC tag NXP only makes the actual tag, we see as this small, we see here and then our customers will take that IC and mount it onto an antenna. It’s just typically a few traces, a few turns of metal traces and then they put that on some kind of plastic inlay. And, that’s what becomes your NFC tag and it’s typically just some an EEPROM memory inside of that, we see where you can read and write various data and potentially you can add security on top.
If you like as well, it’s your NFC tag. We briefly mentioned, NFC modes, so NFC Forum defined three main NFC modes, the first one is what’s called NFC reader. And, this is the mode that’s fully backwards compatible with all the existing thirteen, five-six RFID tags and readers, that was already out there. So, this is your traditional. So, for example, we have a Galaxy Nexus phone here. That has NFC inside. If we just unlock our phone screen, if we just take a passive tag where this is a Mifare Ultralight tag. Just tap it and we can just read the data off and display whatever data is on this tag. With our NFC phone, so this is that’s what when do we do that’s a reader-writer mode that the phone’s in.
Then, they also define what’s called peer to peer and that’s where you have the actual data exchange putting two NFC devices so maybe you have seen those – Samsung commercial showing the tapping. The phones back. Back to back, we can just show you that. So we have a Galaxy S3 and Galaxy nexus here. So you just tap them back to back with for example – if you have a website open, just tap them and we could share the website from one to the other. That’s what they did, they are showing no Samsung commercials. That’s just an example of a peer to peer data. The exchange between two NFC devices and then there’s also card emulation mode.
So, card emulation was driven more by the payment industry. So, they wanted your phone to be or your tablet to be able to emulate a payment card and basically because there were already a lot of contact lists credit cards out there. So, they wanted the phone to be able to look exactly like a contactless credit card and when you tap your phone for example on a point of sale reader.
The point of sale reader can read you as if you are just a standard card and so that was another mode that the NFC formatted in. So these are three main NFC modes and typically with phones will support all these. These three modes, so, getting in kind of to some of the use cases. NFC has been growing a lot in the past, few years, we believe in 2012, around 150 million phones and tablets have this chip with NFC enabled. Just these are just a few examples of those some. From Samsung HTC, various Motorola, various other phone manufacturers.
So, now that all these phones are out there now. What the great thing about that is the phone manufacturers have been invested a few dollars to put NFC inside. So, we can start embedding NFC, also on our site to communicate with these phones and take advantage of the fact that there is NFC inside. So, next, we are going to show you three use cases that kind of show, the kind of main benefits of NFC and what can embedding NFC and your device do for you.
And, you can communicate with all these millions of phones that are already out there. The first one we want to talk about is a Bluetooth pairing example. So, one big benefit of NFC is it can simplify interactions if someone has an NFC phone. For example, this is an NFC phone and a Bluetooth headset. So, in the past, it was a bit of a complicated pairing process. You might have to hold down a power button, for example, browse your phone to the Bluetooth menu.
Find the identifier of the Bluetooth and then type in some kind of pin and now the way NFC is set up is you have basically when you tap your phone you have an instant connection. It is less than 1000 milli-seconds set up a time so much faster than a Bluetooth connection set up. So, you can, for example, you have a Bluetooth headset or Bluetooth speaker if you embed NFC inside of that. You tap your NFC phone and you instantly read out the Bluetooth pairing information and message and the phone will instantly try to start pairing to that Bluetooth.
So, this is just one example. It can also apply for Wi-Fi pairing so if you have a router you put NFC inside your router someone taps their phone or NFC device they can instantly pair to the Wi-Fi and anything else you could think of where you need some kind of pairing. So, and if so you can help simplify your interactions. Another nice use case is there’s a global during company called Lander Sanger and in 2011 they announced they were working with us on putting NFC into their meters.
So, the nice thing here is this was formerly, the e-meter was formerly just a disconnected device battery powered. It didn’t have a way to access any back end host and so since. There are all these millions of NFC phones out there already what you can do is if you add just embed NFC into your device. So, you are a meter or whatever device you have you instantly add a cloud so you can communicate over NFC to the phone and the phone can then go over the air and communicate back with the backend server back end cloud.
So, kind of the use cases they were focused on was maintenance and prepayment. So maintenance meeting if they want to do a firmware update to their e-meter. They can first send the firmware update down over the air to your phone, then you can just tap your phone onto the NFC enabled a mater and do a firmware update on the e-meter and you can also just gather maintenance data. You can gather data information about your energy usage and prepayment is well.
In some countries, you have to prepay for your energy usage. So, you can prepay online that can be sent over the air to your NFC phone. Tap your phone and you have just paid for your energy usage for the mod for example – So, just imagine any you know disconnected device you have you can basically add a cloud to it by just putting NFC inside and then you can use the phone and if all the millions of NFC phones out there to go over the air and the third use case.
We wanted to bring up and if so, you can also help make your daily tasks easier. We are seeing the growth of NFC in the medical space. So, this is an example of on the left is glucose meter on the right is an insulin pump for someone who’s diabetic. These were, you know, typically just disconnected devices battery powered and you know every day how often you have to your glucose reading. Maybe you have to manually read it out, type it in perhaps to your insulin pump etc. So, it is easy to make a mistake.
Forget something, so now if you have to you embed NFC in the meter. You can tap every time you take your measurement just tap your phone that can instantly be sent upto the cloud to some back end server maybe your doctor can immediately see that data and just as well you could embed NFC and the insulin pump it and then, for example, tap the glucose meter on the insulin pump and instantly set your insulin optimum. Insulin will mount. So, it can be helpful in daily tasks, both adding a back-end cloud and just helping you to remember to do whatever you need to do for the day.
Those were the three kinds of benefits. So coming back now – what does NXP have to offer you, in terms of hardware, getting a little bit more into that. So when some people see NFC, they get a little scare. Because, they think – we have to support all the different modes, all these different protocols, but we just wanted to bring up that nice thing about NFC is typically the phones out there they are going to support everything so they are going to support reader and writer for all the different NFC tag types that we mentioned briefly. They were going to support peer to peer in all modes and typically they are also going to support card emulation.