A Big Boost for NFC

NFC Forum and Apple Expand NFC Support

In many ways, near-field communication (NFC) has had its share of hiccups, and has been blocked from its achieving its potential owing to fragmentation. But now, things are looking up for this technology.

Last week, Apple released iOS 11, the latest iteration of its mobile platform. The update includes a new Core NFC framework that gives developers access to a device’s NFC chip. This will create more uses for the technology beyond Apple Pay. It’s the development many supporters of the standard have been waiting for and it will enable iPhone 7 and newer models to read third-party NFC tags.

For example, a compatible iPhone 7 updated to iOS 11 could give its user information from a product on a shelf by reading a nearby NFC label. In some instances, the tag is used directly on the product, allowing the buyer to validate its authenticity. The fact that iOS is becoming part of the open NFC ecosystem will lead to broader applications for these connected tags.

Also last week, the NFC Forum announced that it has widened its certification programme to tag and reader certification. This will allow manufacturers of devices and tags to test and verify the performance and interoperability of the main elements of an NFC experience, helping to ensure predictable and consistent results.

The NFC Forum was launched in 2004 and mandates NFC technology standards and specifications. The group’s members include Apple, Google, Intel, Mastercard, NXP, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, STMicroelectronics and Visa. The clout is there.

Two gaps in NFC technology have been addressed in short order: compatibility checks and the number of devices in use integrating the feature. In the past, developers found the lack of open support on iPhones a major disincentive to investing in NFC. Given Apple’s significant share of the smartphone market in North America, we expect this new level of backing will prompt a resurgence of enthusiasm for the standard among developers, component suppliers and hardware makers. We expect the NFC ecosystem to grow rapidly during the coming years, and we’re betting an NFC boom is on the horizon.