Nokia, Sony and Philips promote touch-based interaction technology

Sony, Nokia and Philips have teamed together to promote a new technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) which, they say,...

Sony, Nokia and Philips have teamed together to promote a new technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) which, they say, will enable a range of touch-based interactions in consumer electronics, PCs and mobile devices.

The companies announced the NFC Forum at Cebit trade show yesterday. The forum aims to promote standards and applications for the new technology, which was jointly developed by Sony and Philips.

NFC uses RFID interconnection technology which operates in the 13.56MHz range. It allows users transfer data over a few centimetres.

The companies hope to spur broad adoption of the technology, which would allow a mobile phone user to touch her device to a friend's digital camera, for example, to transfer a digital image. For larger data transfers, NFC would be complemented by other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth. RFID would initiate the data transfer through the touch "handshake" and Bluetooth could then complete the data transfer between the devices at a greater distance than that allowed by NFC.

NFC also works with contactless smartcard technology, like the FeliCa cards Sony developed for payment applications and electronic ticketing in public transport.

NFC can be used for payment purposes, allowing users to touch their mobile devices to a PC to purchase music from an internet portal.

"This easy and intuitive interaction between electronic devices changes the way information and services are accessed by consumers," said Peter Baumgartner, senior vice president of Philips Semiconductors.

Because NFC operates in conjunction with smart cards, Bluetooth, infrared and other wireless technologies, the forum founders do not see NFC replacing existing technologies, but working alongside them.

"We are creating an opportunity for our industry to create whole new services," said Timo Poikolainen, Nokia's vice president of marketing.

Sony, Nokia and Philips are inviting other companies to join the forum, and said that there has already been a lot of interest from companies in the semiconductor, telecommunication and consumer electronic industries.

The group expects the first NFC application to be launched later this year, allowing consumers to install a WiFi network in their home more easily. The group is working with broadband service providers to offer a smartcard containing broadband and network settings that can then be swiped past an NFC-enabled WiFi base station, and any NFC-enabled devices in their home to configure their networks swiftly.

Online download services, such as music sites, are another niche that the companies are targeting in the near term.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

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