NFC-V Just Got Better – Here’s How
The NFC Forum recently released a set of new technical specifications for the next generation of NFC devices. It consist of the new Type 5 Tag Operation Specification and four updated technical specifications: Analog 2.0, Digital 2.0, Activity 2.0, and NCI 2.0.
I explored some of the new features of NCI 2.0 in two previous posts. But there is more to tell. The new specifications also introduce Active Communication Mode and NFC-V technology. In this post, I’ll explain NFC-V technology in greater detail.
The two primary reasons we chose to include NFC-V technology in our NFC Forum specifications were: to broaden the market and potential use cases for NFC applications interacting with tags already deployed in the market; and to enable more technical implementations for NFC Forum tags by allowing solution providers to choose the optimum hardware.
What is NFC-V technology?
The NFC Forum implementation of NFC-V technology is based on the RF technology defined by the ISO/IEC 15693 specification. Although the ISO/IEC 15693 specification was originally developed to enable longer RF operational range, the range is affected by factors such as antenna design and power consumption. In order to achieve a behavior similar to current NFC devices interacting with existing NFC tags, the NFC Forum chose to support a single communication mode of ISO/IEC 15693 that allows an overall data transfer performance similar to the RF technologies already supported by NFC Forum, but limits the reading distance to that of NFC devices. Because ISO/IEC 15693 mandates the support of this communication mode, the NFC device is able to communicate with all existing tags fully compliant with the ISO/IEC 15693 standard.
With a new generation of NFC devices now able to communicate with tags compliant with the ISO/IEC 15693 standard, new NFC applications can be created to interact with existing tags.
Where can you find tags with this technology and what can the end-user do with a new NFC device? Here are three typical applications:
Library books, products, and packaging
Library books often contain ISO/IEC 15693 tags. That means an NFC app running on an NFC-enabled tablet can easily read the book title or ISBN number from the tag, thereby supporting a search for book reviews or summaries. Similarly, some products or product packaging use these tags for logistics purposes. An NFC app running on an NFC-enabled mobile device can now be used to search for product reviews or to identify a dealer with a lower price.
RF tags are also used for ticketing solutions, such as ski passes. An NFC app running on an NFC-enabled phone could now read the remaining number of ski-lift rides on the pass, or perhaps allow the ticket to be reloaded via an Internet connection.
Some medication packaging contains RF tags. An NFC app running on a NFC-enabled mobile phone could be used to help patients ensure they are taking the correct dose at the right time with just a tap of their phones.
Additional RF technology
NFC-V is now the fourth RF technology supported by NFC Forum specifications (joining NFC-A, NFC-B and NFC-F). Besides supporting additional legacy applications, as described above, this new RF technology widens the implementation choices for new products using NFC. Providers of NFC Forum tags can choose the optimum RF technology based on their features.
While they behave similarly, each of these four RF technologies has its own distinguishing characteristics, including transfer speed and antenna designs. The choice of RF technology may also dependent on the commercial availability of tags with the desired amount of memory, security level, or other additional features (e.g. second interface to a microcontroller).
To extend the hardware market for NFC Forum tags, the NFC Forum defined the new Type 5 Tag Platform protocol and the Type 5 Tag operating specification, which allow NDEF messages to be stored and read on tags using the NFC-V technology. These tags are called Type 5 Tags and are used in the same way as other existing NFC Forum tag types. For example, a solution provider can now use Type 5 Tags on smart posters, enabling users with NFC-enabled devices to open websites or connect to a taxi service with a touch.
Whatever the application, the impact is the same: greater freedom to choose the optimum hardware for each use case and environment while ensuring a consistent — and satisfying — experience for NFC users.
Jürgen Böhler is vice-chair of the NFC Forum Technical Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.