NFC….THE FINAL PUSH
Derek Daly, Sabin Tabirca
University College Cork, Irelandderekdaly@firstname.lastname@example.org
Near Field Communications (NFC) has been a ‘buzz’ word since 2003. It is acontactless technology, enabling quick and secure functionality in numerous areasincluding mobile contactless payment, ticketing and data transfer. Everythingabout it seems perfect. But why has it been a ‘buzz’ word for so long and not yet afully realised technology? This paper aims to answer this question and highlightthe obstacles that the technology has dodged and the hurdles it has yet to leap. This paper identifies the struggles in trying to develop NFC applications for theAndroid platform. It outlines what needs to be done for NFC to succeed, whileconcentrating on Android.
NFC, hardware, contactless, mobile payments, NFC applications
Near Field Communications works within therange of 10 cm. The range of possible applicationsfor this technology is huge. Integrating NFC withAndroid is an area with huge potential, as the lowcost of Android devices, such as the Huawei Ideoswhich at Sh8,000 (€71) is the cheapest smartphone inKenya . This factor alone will push Android indeveloping markets, where NFC could become a partof everyday life. According to a recent survey by Nielson 19pc of smartphone users worldwide haveAndroid handsets. This number has risen from 8pcsince January 2010 . There is no denying thesefigures.
After much research into the different hardwareforms that could manage to be successfully mouldedwith an Android phone, an NFC enabled microSDcard was the fore runner. Since mid to the end of lastyear three manufacturers [3 had announced therelease of this technology, and one manufacturer wasonly weeks away from doing so . Out of thesemanufacturers, Toppan Forms pulled the plug .The problem is NFC enabled microSD cards shouldhave been commercially available by now.University College Cork (UCC) contacted thecompanies directly (Tyfone, Device Fidelity, andCell-Idea) and haven't gotten any real response.What is the holdup? The reason for this delay, inTyfone’s case is funding (which they have received)and testing which is being undertaken . UCC alsocontacted the Android NFC API developers(Stollmann , Inside Contactless , Trusted Logic) for any advice as regards to testing their API's but none have their hardware (e.g. Stollmanns'Beagle Board' ) available quite yet.Apart from NFC enabled microSD cards the onlyreal viable option to work with an Android phone isa powered NFC sticker. These have beenmanufactured by a French startup called Twinlinx.The product is called MyMax . They havedeveloped the technology, which communicates withthe handset via Bluetooth. The stickers contain a battery. They cost between $30 and $40. They aregoing to be available for testing purposes in October,and have already been linked up with the FrenchCityzi project in Nice , where NFC trials areongoing. But again this product isn’t availablecommercially and it will be next year at the earliestwhen it is. It isn’t available for research purposeseither. From a development perspective this optionwill be a more complex process than just writingsoftware to read and write to and from an NFCdevice because the sticker communicates with the phone via Bluetooth. The sticker interacts with an NFC reader/writer or tag and sends this informationto the phone via Bluetooth and vice versa. They havea development kit available since June but it’s valuedat €2000 which is way out of my budget (In order toget this quote you need to contact their sales team).This SDK includes some form of emulator whichwould be ideal for testing apps. With this SDK youcan develop and test NFC apps for the MyMaxsticker, without having the actual sticker.The fact that three companies have been made their open source API’s for Android available todevelopers   , shows the huge potential for,and the interest in the combination of these twotechnologies. NFC is all about making life a bit