“Quiet” and “disruption” are not words normally butted-up against one another in a sentence.  “Disruptions” by their very nature can be chaotic upheavals.  And they are certainly not quiet.

But quiet disruptions are eminently possible and sometimes more powerful with a longer-lasting impact then the louder variety.  Quiet disruptions create change by treading smoothly and noiselessly to influence and establish new markets and opportunities.  They quietly become pervasive within an industry.

Two recently adopted NFC Forum specifications have all the hallmarks of being quiet disruptors.  Both can influence engineering and design changes.  Both target a “sweet spot” in the market.  And both innovations offer new opportunities for the development of new products and solutions.

Credit: Franziska Gabbert/dpa

The Quiet Disruptors

The NFC Forum’s Wireless Charging Technical Specification and Tag NFC Data Exchange Format Exchange Protocol Specification (TNEP) were adopted in 2020.  The specifications improve the NFC user experience and enhance what can be done with a smartphone effectively plowing fertile ground in the market.  WLC allows smartphones to wireless charge small IoT devices like earbuds and smart watches at 1 Watt or less.  Likewise, TNEP has the potential to quietly disrupt the market as it establishes the first bi-directional communications between an IoT device and a smartphone.

WLC Hits Sweet Spot

WLC  hits a sweet spot in the market.  At 1 Watt speeds WLC is slower than Qi speeds of 5 Watt or more.  That is the key point.  WLC is not replacing Qi.  It complements Qi.

Qi charging can be performed on larger devices like smart phones while WLC is used for  headphones, ear buds, fitness trackers or smartwatches — all of which often already feature NFC antennas for connectivity.  This new, NFC-based standard for charging “on the go” can use similarly NFC-equipped smartphones as reverse-wireless chargers.  Future NFC devices could offer wireless charging functionality too.

TNEP Changes The Game For IoT Devices

TNEP is a true market disruptor.  It supports, for the first time in the industry, the bi-directional  exchange of data between an NFC-enabled phone and an IoT device implementing tag and reader functionality. When combined with the Connection Handover Technical Specification (CH 1.5), TNEP enables NFC to implement Bluetooth and Wi-Fi negotiated and mediated handover solutions by using the reader/writer mode regardless of the smartphone operating system (OS). The new ISO/IEC 18013-5 standard (which is currently under development: https://www.iso.org/standard/69084.html) for mobile driving license can use the negotiated handover mechanism with the TNEP 1.0 protocol to allow for the efficient transfer of the mobile driving license stored on the NFC-enabled smartphone. This is a  “sweet spot” in the market for TNEP.

The adoption of the TNEP specification means that IoT device manufacturers can now use components implementing the protocol for tag communication to create more cost-efficient designs and expand connectivity options. Next to handover applications based on CH 1.5, the TNEP specification offers an ideal solution for microcontroller-based designs for IoT devices propelling microcontroller design to the next level and allowing for more IoT device functionality. The bi-directional communication mechanism of TNEP allows for example to configure the display of smart labels, obtain product information or to program and configure a thermostat with NFC as well as allowing to read the actual state of the thermostat.

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