What future NFC apps will hit the mainstream?

March 06, 2014 // By Julien Happich
Near-field communications has been touted as the next big thing for mobile payment, in retail stores to replace contactless credit cards, for transport applications, or to pair devices for quick configuration or promotional data exchanges.

Yet, Bluetooth Smart is moving into that space too and could pre-empt some of the use-cases for NFC, mainly those linking directly to smartphones. The strength of NFC is its battery-less operation and low cost (from an NFC-tag point of view), but a drawback is that users need to be aware of the NFC tag and must get in very close proximity (approaching their NFC-enabled smartphone or NFC-reader a few centimetres away).

By integrating NFC functionality with energy harvesting circuitry and an I²C interface into its NTAG I2C tag, NXP has recently proven that NFC tags could power small electronics as they were read (harvesting enough RF energy from the reader), making these tags less passive than they used to be and opening up many new use cases that could link to smartphone applications, somehow raising them to the “Internet of Things” status.

NXP Semiconductors N.V. (formerly Philips Semiconductors who initiated NFC together with Nokia and Sony) is keen to find a real killer app that will boost the adoption of NFC by smartphone users, beyond geeks and fancy marketing presentations.

With the support from Microsoft and Lenovo, the company has just launched an NFC Windows Application Contest to encouraging students and professionals to focus on developing near field communication (NFC) apps for PCs and tablets running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.

In a first phase, contestants are invited to submit their PC and tablet NFC application ideas at www.nfc-windows-application-contest.com. Up to 1000 ideas will be selected, based on creativity, consumer attractiveness and participant ability to execute, to advance to the second phase.

Each of them will receive NFC development tools to create their application in the Realization round. The best 20 ideas and the five best documents will also receive awards.

The second round will be the time for all selected participants to transform their ideas into demonstrable applications, before the 3rd of July 2014. Five winners will