Texas Instruments to Introduce NFC Chip

Mar 9 2011

U.S.-based Texas Instruments plans to introduce an NFC chip, joining what is becoming a crowded field of suppliers of chips for the short-range wireless technology, NFC Times has learned.

Texas Instruments, which is one of the world’s largest semiconductor suppliers, is not targeting the chip for mobile phones, however, a spokeswoman confirmed to NFC Times. So, unlike chips from the other suppliers, the Texas Instruments chip will not support the single-wire protocol standard. That standard, known as SWP, enables payment and other secure applications to run on SIM cards with a standard connection to the NFC chip. The NFC chip serves as the contactless interface with point-of-sales terminals and other readers.

Texas Instruments declined to disclose any other details about its planned standalone NFC chip until the fall, the likely launch date. Update: The company earlier had pushed the launch date for the chip to the first quarter of 2011. It has delayed it further, saying the chip will not be ready before June 2011.  End update.

While mobile phones are the most talked about devices that will support NFC technology, there are many others that Texas Instruments might be targeting, such as PCs, digital cameras, music players and television set-top boxes. For example, with NFC, consumers could more quickly open Bluetooth or wireless-LAN connections between devices to transfer content.

The company is also a major supplier of wireless chipsets for mobile phones and one of the top suppliers of Bluetooth chips. And Texas Instruments has been developing chips for phones that combine wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and WiFi or Bluetooth and GPS. While the company is working on a standalone NFC chip, presumably the technology could later be incorporated into these combo chipsets, although Texas Instruments may also be working with other NFC companies on this integration.

The move to develop its own NFC chip also signals Texas Instruments' continued interest in the contactless chip market. The company produces chips for payment cards and key-fobs supporting MasterCard Worldwide’s PayPass application and has supplied American Express with chips for ExpressPay cards, also in the U.S. It’s not clear if the chip maker continues to supply AmEx.

In January 2009, Texas Instruments restructured its RFID unit, laying off roughly 60 employees and moving most of the operation to Germany. That is where development of the NFC chip and contactless payment chips is based.

Market Grows More Crowded
While the planned NFC chip does not compete directly with others targeted for mobile phones, Texas Instruments would join a growing list of chip suppliers with NFC chips either on the market or planned this year. (See table below).

All the others are mainly targeting mobile phones and either support SWP or plan to do so–although at least one, NXP Semiconductors, also supplies non-SWP chips for phones and other devices.

Besides NXP, whose chips have been used in numerous NFC trials, the list includes France-based fabless supplier Inside Contactless, whose SWP chips have been used for NFC trials involving SIM-based applications. And Shanghai Fudan Microelectronics, which has supplied NFC chips to at least two Chinese handset makers, also has a chip on the market.

Switzerland-based STMicroelectronics said it will have its SWP chip available during the second half of 2010 for production. The NFC chip has apparently been delayed given that ST announced the chip in late 2008. Laurent Degauque, telecom and NFC marketing manager in ST’s smart card division, predicts handset makers will introduce three to five NFC models commercially before the end of 2010, following long market delays.

“At the end of the race, we are more or less at the same level (as other chip suppliers),” he told NFC Times. “The market hasn’t started yet. We come right when market is going to start.”

Fabless Danish startup Polaric also plans an SWP-enabled chip this year, CEO Rashad Elsubaihi confirmed to NFC Times. And unconfirmed reports say Japan’s Sony Corp., co-creator of NFC technology with NXP, is working on an NFC chip. It already supplies millions of NFC-like FeliCa contactless wallet-phone chips for the Japanese market. Beijing Tongfang Microelectronics also is planning an NFC chip for the Chinese market, said a source.

All are standalone NFC chips. But there will be other chips on the market that will incorporate NFC along with Bluetooth, WiFi and other wireless technologies–likely within two or three years. Besides one or more of these combo chips expected from Texas Instruments, CSR, formerly known as Cambridge Silicon Radio, has said it would have such chips packing NFC available. Another supplier, Broadcom, is a member of the NFC Forum trade group, so it is expected to have a chip integrating NFC, as well. UK-based Innovision, which is among providers of IP for combining NFC with the combo chipsets, said it has development deals with at least five chipset suppliers, which it declines to name.

Budding Interoperability Problems?
While all this bodes well for prices and supply of NFC chips for device manufacturers, it also raises the prospect of interoperability problems. The NFC chips might not work with all contactless readers or RFID tags from different manufacturers or with other phones in peer-to-peer mode.

In the past, such other short-range wireless products as contactless payment cards, e-passports and Bluetooth accessories have experienced interoperability problems because of differences in timing, strength of the RF field or even simple-coding issues, said one source with a smart card chip supplier. The problems resulted from the lack of a strong certification process for some of the products and a “huge variety of implementations,” said the source.

Interoperability shouldn’t be a problem for NFC phones or other devices used for bank-issued payment applications, since standards, testing and certification from payment-industry organization EMVCo is designed to ensure interoperability between phones and readers.

But other applications and tag reading is another matter. Tags make use of NFC’s reader mode, enabling, for example, a user to tap an RFID chip embedded in a smart poster to transfer a URL or SMS code to the phone, which could then download an electronic coupon or updated bus schedule over the network.

The NFC Forum has defined specifications for various operations of tags and NFC chips and will certify compliance with the specifications for a number of these operations. That means NFC chip vendors, manufacturers of four tag types specified by the forum and other equipment suppliers will have to have their products tested to determine whether they follow the NFC Forum specs.

But they will not have to test whether their products work together. Forum compliance committee members debated whether to require the interoperability testing but decided it would add too much to costs, including travel to “plugfests,” where vendors meet to test their wares against others in the industry, committee co-chair Matt Ronning told NFC Times. Those events will be voluntary, said Ronning, who is director of engineering for the components solutions business division at Sony.

But he disagrees that more suppliers will lead to more potential interoperability problems.

“My opinion would be more vendors providing solutions is actually better,” he said. “The more people trying to make devices to a certain specification, the more you’ll be able identify problems in specifications. And we’ll have more devices we can test at compliance and interoperability events like plugfests.”

He noted that the forum does not draft specifications covering compliance or interoperability for NFC applications. So even if the devices work together well at the lower communication levels, they might still fail in the field unless other organizations step in, as EMVCo does for bank payment.

And the forum’s certification program will not cover such things as alignment of antennas connected to the NFC chips, at least not at first. That also could create problems when, say, a user taps his phone to enter a building. If the antenna isn't aligned properly, for some door readers it would work, others perhaps not.

In addition, NFC chips supporting the single-wire protocol would have be integrated with SIM chips from various suppliers. ST is the only supplier of both NFC and SIM chips in the current field of actual or prospective NFC chip vendors. That could smooth integration. But ST is not one of the top suppliers of SIM chips in the telecom industry.

CROWDED MARKET

NFC Chip Supplier* Key Handsets to Date Notes
NXP Semiconductors
Base: Netherlands
Samsung S5230, All Nokia, others Has NFC chips supporting both SWP and embedded secure element. Beat out Inside for chip for first Samsung NFC touch-screen model. Considered favorite to supply Apple if iPhone goes to NFC.
Inside Contactless
Base: France
Sagem Cosyphone, Sagem my700X, others Supplied chips for most trials involving apps on SIM cards with SWP connection. Likely to supply chip for ZTE, but no hints yet of any deals with tier-one handset makers.
Shanghai Fudan Microelectronics
Base: China
HEDY, Changhong Has supplied chips for NFC handsets used by China Unicom in Shanghai. Will be key supplier to Chinese handset makers if Unicom and other telcos roll out NFC in China.
STMicroelectronics
Base: Switzerland
N/A Said it can supply SIM chips “integrated” with planned NFC chip, including SIMs supporting Mifare. But NFC chip has been absent since ST announced it in late 2008. Chip maker said it will be able to ramp up in H2 of 2010, when it predicts handset makers will be launching three to five NFC models.
Texas Instruments
Base: United States
N/A Big U.S. chip maker is targeting planned NFC chip to devices other than phones. After layoffs in its RFID unit last year, TI appears to be putting emphasis back on contactless with the standalone NFC chip. NFC integrated with TI’s wireless chipsets might come later.
Polaric
Base: Denmark
N/A Fabless Danish startup said it will have samples in mid-2010 of a small, low-cost SWP-enabled NFC chip.
* Standalone NFC modem chips only. Combo-wireless chipsets are also expected to support NFC. N/A = not available or not applicable.
Source: NFC Times

 

 

 

 

HEADLINE NEWS

Analysis: Agreements with Visa, Mastercard and Earlier Deal with Discover Could Help PayPal Reverse Years of Failures at Physical Point of Sale

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Agreements that were announced with Visa, Discover and, last week, Mastercard may finally help PayPal reverse years of failed attempts to enable customers to pay with its PayPal Wallet in stores.

Analysis: FeliCa Mobile Payment and Ticketing Nothing New in Japan, as Apple Strains for Apple Pay Developments to Spotlight

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple Wednesday confirmed that its new iPhone 7 smartphones and second-generation Apple Watch will support Sony’s proprietary FeliCa technology in Japan, as earlier reported, enabling transit and retail payments when Apple Pay launches in Japan next month. The tech giant will also expand Apple Pay into New Zealand and Russia this year, though was able to announce only one issuer so far between the two countries.

MeaWallet Makes Transition from TSM to HCE Supplier but Challenges, including Lawsuit, Remain

Sep 8 2016

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Rising from a failed TSM and wallet provider, Norway-based MeaWallet has transformed itself into a certified supplier of host card emulation technology, now part of Sweden-based Seamless Distribution.

Huawei and Xiaomi Sign Up More Banks and Transit Agencies for ‘Pays’ Services in China

NFC Times Excusive Insight – China’s mobile payments market continues to heat up, with Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and Xiaomi announcing lineups of major banks as well as transit agencies participating in their respective NFC-based ‘Pays’ services.

Apple Refuses to Open NFC Technology; Contends Australian Banks Want to Boost Own Wallets

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple vowed it will not agree to open up its NFC technology or yield to other negotiating points that four large Australian banks have raised as part of their request to antitrust regulators to negotiate collectively with Apple and to boycott participation in Apple Pay while the negotiations are going on.

Source: Apple Plans to Support FeliCa and NFC in Japan, Like Other OEMs, but Not Necessarily Apple Pay Yet

Aug 26 2016

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple plans to support proprietary FeliCa technology as well as NFC in its iPhones sold in Japan like other handset makers in Japan have been doing since 2012, probably starting with the iPhone 7; but the tech giant won’t necessarily introduce Apple Pay with the device, a source told NFC Times.

Analysis: Samsung Marks One-Year Anniversary of Payments Service by Touting 100 Million Transactions but Still has Much to Prove

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Twelve months after launch, Samsung Pay is available in seven countries and eight total markets with users having made a combined 100 million or so transactions over the past year, but the tech giant is not disclosing its total number of users.

Australian Retail Giant Coles, Merchant Group Support Banks' Fight Against Apple

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – One of Australia's largest supermarket chain, Coles, and the Australian Retailers Association have thrown their support behind four major banks seeking permission from Australian antitrust regulators to negotiate as a bloc with Apple as they try to break what they see as the tech giant's divide-and-conquer strategy for recruiting banks for Apple Pay.

Visa, Mastercard Set Deadlines for Ending Support for Alternate PANs

NFC Times Exclusive – Both Visa and Mastercard have set deadlines for ending support for alternate PANs that a number of banks are issuing for their mobile payments apps, as the schemes continue to push their own tokenization services to issuers, NFC Times has learned.

Xiaomi's Mi Pay Joins Crowded ‘OEM Pay’ Market in China, as Device Maker Seeks to Slow Slide in Sales

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Adding mobile payments capabilities to flagship smartphones appears to be a must-have feature as OEMs fight for market share in China’s hotly contested phone market.

OTI Continues to Cut Costs and Position Itself for Growth, but Won’t Project When It Will Finally Turn Profit

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Contactless reader and NFC vendor On Track Innovations reported lower expenses and says it has positioned itself to earn more revenue from services in addition to its reader sales and possible NFC patent income–all in hopes of making the company profitable for the first time in its history. The question of when that will happen remains unanswered, however, and OTI doesn’t provide guidance.

Apple Strikes Back at Australian Banks Seeking to Bargain Collectively, Branding Them a ‘Cartel’

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple has responded to a request to regulators by four major Australian banks to jointly negotiate terms for their adoption of Apple Pay and to boycott participation during the negotiations with a strongly worded letter, branding the group’s proposed action worthy of a “cartel” that would “harm consumers, lead to less competition and less innovation and set a troubling precedent.”

136.243.146.18