Developing NFC applications

Another NFC shell

Judging by the number of emails we have received, there is great interest in software and hardware development of NFC applications. The main stumbling block at the moment seems to be working out what development platform to use, and knowing where to get hold of development kits for the various handsets and servers needed to run an NFC application.

Bearing in mind that we haven’t used any of these things extensively yet, we are putting everything we know about getting hold of development resources here. Perhaps we can collectively use this post as a way of pooling information on the topic. Thanks to Peter Ljungstrand for initial conversations and valuable information on these things.

NFC phones

At the moment, the phones we can use for NFC development are the 5140 Field Force Solution and the 3220 NFC Shell. Both of these are rather quirky, the the 5140 is slow, and the NFC shell is somewhat unreliable. Nokia has admitted that these are trial releases for developers, and will never be widely released to the public.

Nokia Field Force phone

Both of these kits are available from Top Tunniste, and we’ve seen them pop up at other online stores too, so search around.

Various rumours have been circulating about upcoming Nokia handsets: perhaps a flip phone with a fully integrated NFC chip, not just an interchangeable cover. We’ll have to wait and see but lets hope they have a robust and consistent approach to the next release, coupled with simultaneous rollouts of useful public services.

Samsung has apparently developed an NFC enabled SGH-X700. There is some discussion about it over at the Sun developer network.

In Asia, particularly Japan, many handsets are using the Felica standard that is supposedly compatible with NFC. It would be very interesting to hear any Asian experience with these phones or the Felica SDK.

NFC tags

The Nokia 3220 only comes with four tags, so any developer will need to get hold of more. Getting hold of tags is easy. Toptunniste for instance sells a few kinds of tags for about a euro each. But there are many other options: NFC is based upon high frequency ISO 14443 Mifare standard, so re-writeable Mifare Standard 1K/4K or Mifare Ultralight tags from any supplier should work. And these are available in many form factors, from cards, key fobs, stickers, to laundry tags and ‘mount on metal’ tags. Some other suppliers are Mannings, Promobox, Cardxx, SAG and Korea RFID.

NFC standards and protocols

The NFC forum is slowly releasing the specifications for NFC devices, and this is the first place to look if you want to find out if the NFC standard is right for your application. There is enough detail there to work on high-level descriptions of NFC applications and services.

‘Official’ development kits

At the moment, because the Near Field Communication specifications haven’t been normalised, writing an application for NFC requires writing for one brand of phone, using proprietary development kits.

Nokia Field Force Architecture
The Nokia Field Force Solution Architecture, available here.

The Nokia development kit for NFC is currently available from a number of suppliers. Top Tunniste in Finland sells a 5 user license for €2000, they also sell phones and compatible tags if you can’t find them locally. I’ve heard that the kit is available for around €800 in Germany and £500 in the UK so it may be worth phoning around to ask local suppliers.

In the license agreement for the Nokia SDK you agree to use their proprietary server for networked interactions. For this you need to buy, or subscribe to the Nokia Local Interactions Server (LI Server). The LI server is described as such:

Nokia Local Interactions Server (LI Server) is a cost-efficient, real-time Web service that simplifies data capture, reporting, management, and communication with mobile workforce. Quickly integrated into your company’s back-end systems, your field force personnel can use it to provide up-to-date information to the back-end office and receive instant feedback in their mobile phones. It is also an easy, but secure method to distribute and update company-specific phone Local Interactions (LI) Client software to end-users’ mobile phones.

This is €400 from Top Tunniste. Getting around the LI server is supposed to be a little clumsy, but it’s possible (if not legal) to use your own server applications. At the simplest end of the spectrum, my students have used URI stored on tags as simple pointers to web applications that are invoked when a page is loaded, for instance.

If you want to discover how other people are getting on with this stuff, then try searching at Forum Nokia for RFID or NFC, which reveals threads like this one.

Other development kits

There are other hardware and software NFC development kits available from places like Sirit, Inside contactless, Skyetek, Innovision and Wireless Dynamics. Given that the NFC forum specifications are still nascent, we don’t yet trust the interoperability between different manufacturer’s devices. So we haven’t used any of these so far, and would be very interested in your experiences.

Contactless communication API

JSR 257 the “Contactless Communication API” has been proposed by Nokia and is currently being defined by the Java Mobile community. It is supported by the Nokia 5140i FFS (Source) but we’re not sure about the Samsung phones. When rolled out and standardised, it should be a good common development space for all kinds of applications that require physical links or applications. One of the great possibilities is that we can prototype and launch using 2D barcode tags, and easily transition to NFC interactions as the handsets become widely available. We can also design more specialist applications that use Bluetooth or even IR in the same environment.

Simon Woodside, the developer of Semacode, writes about it here:

JSR 257: Contactless Communication API is defining both RF and visual tag interface for Java ME. This will be THE way to interact with visual tags and RFIDs, smart cards, etc. And since our SDK implements the public draft interface, you can future proof yourself.

There is an overview of this and JSR 256, the “Mobile Sensor APIhere, and an in-depth look at the standard here. It’s currently in the “Proposed Final Draft” stage so it looks like it’s pretty solidified.

More information

We are really interested in hearing about your experiences with development, it would be great to use this post as a place to collect information.

Related things:

  1. Nokia releases first mass-market NFC handset Nokia today announced the 6131 NFC phone, the first integrated NFC handset that will (operators willing) be available to the public. Previously NFC had been confined to ageing handsets like the 5140 and 3220......
  2. Local applications and services This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. One of the most important features of NFC is that it only works at a very short range. This......
  3. iPhone RFID and NFC peripherals We are beginning to see RFID and NFC peripherals beginning to be released for the iPhone. Since our conceptual video prototype of the iPhone object-based media came out in April, we’ve had thousands of......
  4. Thoughts on Nokia’s NFC developments On April 15th Nokia announced the 6212 ‘classic’ phone that incorporates Near Field Communication technology. This phone is the fourth NFC-capable phone from Nokia in as many years and it is the first NFC......
  5. NFC in action A video has surfaced from the recent launch of the Nokia 6131 NFC phone at CES. The demo shows some basic functions of touch-based interactions such as using a ‘smart poster’ to make a......

This entry was posted in Technicalities and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

7 Comments

  1. yan bertrand
    Posted 29 August 2006 at 9:11 | Permalink

    Actually there is an additional standardized interface, the JSR177, a.k.a. “Security and Trust Services ”, which can be used also along JSR257 when you want to create an application based on storing data in a secure element in the phone. (For instance, if you want to store a parking ticket, a cinema ticket.) I have been told, it is not supported in the current Nokia handsets - butI could not try for myself this far.

    Since we are talking about developper tools for NFC, I would also like to mention that one can easilly buy NFC readers on the web (such as the Pegoda reader from Philips). They come with a lot of tags (12 if I remember well) for 40€, and a software to drive them. On top of the custom software, you can also install Ecclipse, a Java environment that will allow you to prepare your own cardlets for the secure module in the phone.

    There’s a lot we can do there!

    I have also heard that there is a Motorola “trial phone”, not available for us as of yet, that has been tested in cafeterias and at Mac Donnalds in the US. ( http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1923242,00.asp as well as http://networks.silicon.com/mobile/0,39024665,39124936,00.htm) It is based on their E398… Hopefully some kind of phone will also come from them for us to develop!

  2. Posted 16 October 2006 at 14:13 | Permalink

    Hi Timo,

    I would like to publish your article on smartnfc.com and translate it into German, if you allow (we will link you and tell the source). We are a serious organization and not just spamming Google with NFC to increase the value of our website (talknfc). Together with our partners, developing NFC solutions, we are in close contact to the NFC-Forum and Philips.

    Regards Michael ( mailto:mw@smartnfc.com)

  3. Posted 24 October 2006 at 8:56 | Permalink

    Hi, I am a technology Journalist from India. I shall be grateful if you may please answer the following questions asap:

    Q1)WHAT IS NFC IN LAYMAN’S LANGUAGE?

    Q2)HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER ALTERNATE TECHNOLOGIES OR WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT IT?

    Q3) SO, IS NFC A TECHNOLOGY OR A COMPONENT OR A PRODUCT?

    Q4)HOW DOES IT REALLY WORK? OR HOW DOES AN NFC DEVICE WORK?

    Q5)WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL APPLICATIONS FOR NFC?

    Q6) WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR NFC?

    Q7)How is NFC distinct from Wireless technology, Bluetooth, Infrared and RFID and whats the scope and present applications of NFC?

  4. Posted 25 January 2007 at 12:07 | Permalink

    Hi Timo,

    Thank you for your blog. When I just started going in on this subject called ‘NFC’, I stumbled upon your blog and I found it very valuable.

    The Nokia 3220, fortunately, soon is going to be obsoleted by the Nokia 6131 NFC.
    I’ve written some things about that at my blog:

    http://danielsweblog.blogspot.com/2007/01/nokia-releases-new-6131-nfc-phone.html

    Hope to hear from you.

    Daniel

  5. Shahan
    Posted 23 May 2007 at 6:52 | Permalink

    Hello , i m MSc Communication engineering student , doing work on Near Field Communication, I want to ask how NFC device can be used for security and survillance purpose. Thanks

  6. Posted 10 June 2008 at 7:24 | Permalink

    We are OEM manufacturers of NFC readers in India, can offer modules and development kits and support for development of NFC application.

    contact either on shekhar@trackrflink.com or info@trackrflink.com

  7. Posted 28 July 2009 at 19:27 | Permalink

    Q1)WHAT IS NFC IN LAYMAN’S LANGUAGE?
    nfc - near field communication. it’s contactless communication
    with your cellphone and another device for example

    Q2)HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER ALTERNATE TECHNOLOGIES OR WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT IT?
    It’s only near wireless communication. Couple of inches away.

    Q3) SO, IS NFC A TECHNOLOGY OR A COMPONENT OR A PRODUCT?
    It’s a technology.

    Q4)HOW DOES IT REALLY WORK? OR HOW DOES AN NFC DEVICE WORK?
    Look it up on wikipedia.

    Q5)WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL APPLICATIONS FOR NFC?
    Mobile payment, Mobile security authentication ( no need to carry keys)

    Q6) WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR NFC?
    Many and bright. VISA and NOKIA is already on this.
    ClintSys, a Canadian based company is also trying to get in on the market.

    Q7)How is NFC distinct from Wireless technology, Bluetooth, Infrared and RFID and whats the scope and present applications of NFC?
    It’s near and contactless.

One Trackback

  1. [...] Developing NFC applications [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: