NFC Specification & Integrated Circuits
The Contactless technology known as Near Field Communication (NFC) allows two objects which are NFC enabled to communicate at a close range of around 5cm. Usually one of these objects will be an item which is embedded with an NFC IC (Integrated Circuit), while the other will be a device which is capable of reading the NFC IC (Integrated Circuit) thanks to an NFC Reader - e.g. a smartphone or tablet.
NFC, which is classed as High Frequency (HF), stands out among the RFID frequencies because of its unique protocol which engenders a number of consumer facing services, the most prominent of which are NFC Marketing Solutions and Contactless Payment. NFC's penetration in the consumer market is due to its incorporation into the vast majority of smartphones. Smartphone users around the world are able to use NFC technology for a huge variety of purposes; from instant access to consumer targeted media to a wide range of commercial and industrial purposes.
Smartphone users are now able to download information, audio and video; instantly 'Like' or 'Follow' a social media account; enter a competition; and be directed to a specific web page; all with a simple Tap or Swipe of their phone. In Healthcare, thanks to NFC the number of vacant hospital beds can automatically be tracked and managed; in Social Care, workers can automatically time and log their visits; and in events, organisers can track attendees movements across a site, gaining insights into their behaviours. These are just some of the commercial benefits which NFC offers.
One command interactions
The close proximity interactions which NFC is used for requires one command per interaction. It is this simplicity which has provided the foundation for the technology grow to be a driving force in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
As part of the wider network of connected objects which comprises the IoT, NFC is able to provide an important user controlled element in the form of smartphones and tablets, and also 'readable' items which possess embedded NFC Tags.
4IR is the term which has been attributed to the new generation of technologies which are expected to shape the business world over the next few years, including; IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Again, NFC is playing a crucial role in this development, offering a 'Human Element' of user control which fits in with the connected networks that are typically involved with 4IR technologies.
Tag Type Specifications
There are several tag type specifications attributable to NFC - NFC Forum Type 1/2/3/4/5 - details of which you can find below:
NFC Forum Type 1 Tag Specification:
Defines how an NFC-enabled device in Reader/Writer Mode detects, reads and writes a NDEF Message on a NFC Forum Type 1 Tag. The communication with this NFC Forum Tag type is based on NFC-A Technology.
NFC Forum Type 2 Tag Specification:
Defines how an NFC-enabled device in Reader/Writer Mode detects, reads and writes a NDEF Message on a NFC Forum Type 2 Tag. The communication with this NFC Forum Tag type is based on NFC-A Technology.
NFC Forum Type 3 Tag Specification:
Defines how an NFC-enabled device in Reader/Writer Mode detects, reads and writes a NDEF Message on a NFC Forum Type 3 Tag. The communication with this NFC Forum Tag type is based on NFC-F Technology, which is compatible to the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) X 6319-4.
NFC Forum Type 4 Tag Specification:
Defines how an NFC-enabled device in Reader/Writer Mode detects, reads and writes a NDEF Message on a NFC Forum Type 4 Tag. The communication with this NFC Forum Tag type is based on the ISO Data Exchange Protocol (ISO-DEP) which is fully compatible with the ISO/IEC 14443 standard series. This protocol is either based on NFC-A or NFC-B Technology.
NFC Forum Type 5 Tag Specification:
Defines how an NFC-enabled device in Reader/Writer Mode detects, reads and writes a NDEF Message on a NFC Forum Type 5 Tag. The communication with this NFC Forum Tag type is based on NFC-V Technology.
NTAG424 DNA Integrated Circuit (IC)
The NTAG424 DNA IC has a Usable Memory offering 416 bytes in total. This memory capacity is divided into the following:- 256 bytes for the NDEF record, 32 bytes for the capability container and 128 bytes for the protected data file.
NTAG424 DNA ICs are fully compliant to the technical specification of the NFC Forum Tag 4 Type, ensuring maximum interoperability, as well as being fully compliant to NDEF data structure configurations.
The IC is used for two core concepts, and they are Authentication and Data Protection. Their objectives include; combat counterfeiting, enable next-generation user experiences, implement supply-chain traceability, safeguard data in the supply chain, protect money offers, authenticate documents, detect tampering and trigger status-based messages.
Among the benefits of the NTAG424 DNA integrated circuit are a secure unique NFC message (SUN) feature to create tap-unique authentication data each time an NFC product (Tag) is tapped, along with mirroring, NFC counter, mutual authentication, ECC signature, ultimate product authentication, and customisation from fab.
The NTAG21x Integrated Circuits (IC's)
The launch of the NTAG21x family of tags from global leaders NXP, marks a further milestone in the maturity of the NFC ecosystem. No longer a technology with boundless theoretical potential, NFC has a proven track record that goes far beyond the basic contactless payment application to being at the heart of all marketing, operations, security and, in a nutshell, any communications strategy.
The leap with the NTAG21x family of tags is less technology driven and much more user and application driven. Previous generations proved to the world what NFC could do; this generation responds to the world’s commitment, to give those users what they need in their business, a move away from ‘one size fits all’ to the design of NTAG21x family members for specific roles in the rapid diversity of application.
A major new feature is the 32 bit password security; being able to ensure that access to the tag’s information or application requires a human input; protecting systems from the risk of stolen card or phone usage.
A must for marketers is the UID (unique identifier) ASCII mirror capability that allows for quickly tracing site visits back to the originating tag by providing a link to the URL. This of course allows for the performance evaluation of poster or information sites or content in driving traffic, as well as the opportunity to quickly roll out new tag based campaigns.
The 24-bit NFC counter, incorporated in the NTAG 213, 215 and 216 members, gives a record of how many times a tag has been tapped; again providing a performance tool for evaluating promotional assets or providing simplified monitoring records.
All members of the NTAG21x family are equipped with the Fast Read command; this dramatically improves the tag registration speed capability of inline processes such as print and label manufacturing, avoiding bottleneck risks in fast processing.
Product authenticity problems can also be a thing of the past, with the Integrated Originality Signature providing the detection of unauthorised NTAG copies; a simple but very powerful solution that is likely to become an area of significant future development given that counterfeiting seems to have become an unwelcome part of everyday business competition.
32 bit Password
UID Ascii Mirror
24 bit Counter
Fast Read Command
NFC Forum Type 2
7 Byte Unique ID
To date the main development targets in NFC technology have been scan distance, reliability, memory and, of course, price. While those will continue to be areas for further improvements there can be little doubt that NFC’s future rests in how it can adapt itself to the functional needs of both customers and users, ensuring that an NFC enabled experience is a better experience. These first steps, with the NTAG21x family, to incorporate counters and usage monitoring tools are just the beginning of the maturity of NFC to provide the performance data that will make it truly accountable, perfectly timed to appeal to the new users who will be attracted by these powerful features.
The Mifare Ultralight EV1 Integrated Circuit (IC)
Continuing the trend towards developing circuits for specific applications, Mifare have introduced the EV1 to join the family of ultra-light chips.
The UL EV1 is designed specifically for the limited use applications of transport, event ticketing and loyalty recording, and is able to authenticate the encoding, preventing the use of cloned counterfeit tickets. This is achieved through a unique 7 bytes serial number, with data access protected with a 32-bit password.
The three independent 24 bit one-way counters enable transport operators to implement flexible ticket tariff schemes - for buses, trams and metros, for example - by enhancing reloading, trip counting, expiry date management and limiting stored values.
The fast read command allows increased customer flow; this improves operational efficiency with faster boarding processes and reduces customer queuing times and frustration at events, such as concerts and exhibitions. The reduction, or even elimination, of cash handling gives additional overall application improvement, backed up by the proven reliability of the Mifare products.
The enhanced performance of the limited use circuit doesn’t compromise the access to statistical data for system optimisation, so more efficient fleet management and security outcomes remain as expected from the Mifare range.
On the technical front, the UL EV1 is fully compatible with other Mifare based systems, allowing easy integration into existing ticket production processes. Additionally, public transport operators using smart paper tickets can run a fully integrated contactless system employing a single reader infrastructure for both tickets and cards - eliminating the need for separate systems to read mag-stripe and barcode-based tickets.
The Mifare Classic EV1 Integrated Circuit (IC)
For contactless smart ticket ICs in the 13.56 MHZ frequency range, the MIFARE Classic is considered something of a pioneer. With its ISO 14443 compliance and read / write capability, it was pivotal in the contactless revolution.
Among the important areas which the MIFARE Classic spawned game changing applications for are public transport and access management. These technologies have changed the way we identify ourselves and move from location to location in the work place, in public buildings and during special events.
Due to the rapid evolution of security needs and application requirements for contactless ticketing, some of the MIFARE Classic product family of chips have become somewhat outdated. For this reason, we don't advise the use of MIFARE Classic chips in applications with a large security element. For customers with security requirements, the MIFARE Plus and MIFARE DESFire product families have been designed with their objectives in mind. MIFARE Ultralight, the limited use/high volume IC family, was also developed after the MIFARE Classic Family became unable to meet many modern day security necessities.
MIFARE Classic EV1
The MIFARE Classic EV1 is available in two versions; MIFARE Classic EV1 1K and MIFARE Classic EV1 4K. It represents the furthest evolved product in the MIFARE Classic family, being more advanced than any previous versions. Customers select either the MIFARE Classic EV1 1K or MIFARE Classic EV1 4K depending on their specific applications requirements.
Advantages of the MIFARE Classic EV1
With its increased ESD robustness, true random number generator and Random ID support (7 byte UID version), the MIFARE Classic EV1 enables the easy handling of IC for card and other NFC products. It also allows for a higher degree of flexibility in antenna designs and provides RF performance which is best in class for optimised transactions.
The Mifare DESFire EV1 Integrated Circuit (IC)
The MIFARE DESFire EV1 is a fast, secure, reliable and flexible Contactless smartcard. It offers a robust, multi-application contactless solution for high-volume and security-sensitive NFC applications such as public transport ticketing, physical access control and closed-loop Contactless payment systems.
By offering a perfect balance of speed, performance and versatility, the MIFARE DESFire EV1 allows for innovative uses and easy integration with other contactless systems. The smartcard provides a high level of security using a 3DES or AES cryptographic system for encrypting transmission data.
The MIFARE DESFire EV1 smartcard can hold up to 28 different applications, with 32 files for each application. This impressive capacity – combined with the ability of file sizes to be defined at creation – makes this a truly versatile product. It can be put to multiple, parallel uses, offering end users an ‘all in one’ smartcard. To add to its versatility, you can choose from three different variants of the MIFARE DESFire EV1: 2K, 4K and 8K - denoting the total amount of non-volatile memory available on the chip.
The MIFARE DESFire EV1 is a Common Criteria (EAL4+) certified product, which follows open global standards for NFC communication and cryptography, making it strongly standards-compliant. It provides an automatic anti-tear mechanism, along with impressive data transfer rates of up to 848 kbit/s.
The Sony FeliCa RC-S966 Integrated Circuit (IC)
Another chip which has really made its mark in recent times, especially with the explosion in smart posters, is the Sony FeliCa RC-S966, which offers a streamlined security function, as well as an optimised file system.
This tiny contactless IC chip is an 'NFC Forum Type 3 Tag' which combines perfectly with NFC devices not only in consumer touchpoints, such as smart posters and business cards, but also in handover connections.
In order to address the problem of unauthorised access, the FeliCa RC-S966 uses a Multiplier Accumulator Chip (MAC) which provides both write access control for its functionality, as well as read access control. This enables application development which is secure thanks to the MAC function, which gives a mutual and streamlined authentication between the reader and the product.
The Type 3 Tag which is supported by the chip means it is able to communicate with standardised NFC Readers and smartphones. Backed up by a user memory of 224 bytes, it offers enough space for most usages and applications which include NFC tags and provides multiple access attributes on its simplified file system.
This simple file system supports the access attributes listed below:
- Read Only Access
- Read/Write Access
- Read After Authentication
- Write After Authentication
- Write With MAC
- Fast transaction speed
In terms of what operations the FeliCa RC-S966 supports, it allows for a 212/424 kbps data transfer rate, along with simultaneous 16 byte data writes and simultaneous 64 byte data reads. It also benefits from a data integrity check function and anti-tearing transaction function. This means a CRC data check code is provided for each data block in the event that a data error occurs.
The FeliCa RC-S966 is one of our chips of choice when developing NFC applications, and its functionality and reliability make it an essential ingredient in the creation of next generation NFC products.
A brief history of NFC Integrated Circuits (IC's)
The technical bit that determines what we can do is known as the ‘tag’(sometimes called stickers ); it has an integrated circuit containing a tiny memory device, like a computer disk or USB stick, attached to a small radio antenna that enables the wireless communication.
What is really clever is that the tag does not have to have a power source, such as a battery nor does it have to be plugged in. It simply takes the power it needs from the close proximity of the phone, no wires, no contact, just near field communication.
Tags come in a variety of specifications, Ultralight, Ultralight C, Standard 1K and NTAG203, each of which has a different information capacity in the memory and accuracy over specific distances.
Cost effective, short URL, smart poster and general NFC use.
Good capacity, general NFC use.
Used for high capacity storage and vCards only.
Latest nfc chip, high performance. Great value.
NFC Forum T2
1 - Memory Size : this is the total amount of memory within the chip and may be one time programmable (OTP) or fully reprogrammable.
2 - User Memory : This will tell you how much data you can store and will probably determine which tag you select.
3 - URL Length : as it suggests this is maximum length of URL you can store on this chip, excluding the https:// or https://www precursors.
4 - Text Length : identifies in characters how much plain text the chip will store.
5 - Mobile Compatability : This will identify which phones/operating systems are compatible with the chip.
6 – Best Use : The type of application best suited to this tag.
7 - NFC Forum Type 2 : Compatible with the growing NFC Forum Type 2 standards.
8 - Serial Number : Some apps need specific information such as location, product or identity which can be encoded via a serial number.
9 - Cryptography : Encryption can help to prevent the danger of device cloning.
10 - ScanStrength : An indicator that shows the ratio of distance to accuracy of reading, a key measure in designing NFC systems.