October 22, 2014

Open NFC is Released!

Say what you will about the Nexus S, it brought into sharp relief a technology that is all but ignored in the US – Near Field Communications. While tech hungry young adults the world over celebrated this as some kind of new and inventive thing, the truth is that NFC has been around for a really long time, and have even been in active daily use in several countries in the world. The US just never really caught onto the trend, and Google hoped the Nexus S would help change that. Obviously one phone on one network isn’t going to change anything, but it could be a catalyst. Today, we see the results of this catalyst with the release of Open NFC.

In it’s closed source state, NFC would fail miserably. Each manufacturer would emit their ownsignal, and the base stations that provide the data would never work with them all. It’s a giant mess, no matter how you look at it. Even the Nexus S chip, complete with Google’s code, would only work with things made by NXP Semiconductors. This is obviously not the way to do things. So the team at Inside Secure have been working on Open NFC, a way to make it easy for these vendors to cooperate.

“This has tremendous cost, time-to-market and flexibility advantages for NFC chip vendors, smartphone manufacturers and software developers who would otherwise have to contend with rewriting the hardware-specific elements of the Gingerbread NFC protocol stack,”

That’s Philippe Martineau, executive vice president of the NFC business line for Inside Secure. An open source solution would allow for multiple vendors to use Open NFC alongside the code found in Gingerbread so that any future Android phone that supported NFC, regardless of manufacturer, would operate the same way (in case you are wondering, this is also a big reason we have not seen more devices already supporting NFC.) Phillipe also had this to add:

“Open NFC relies on a separate, very thin and easily adaptable hardware abstraction software layer, which accounts for a very small percentage of the total stack code, meaning that the Open NFC software stack can be easily leveraged for different NFC chip hardware.”

It’s a huge step towards NFC becoming a viable mainstream method of data transfer. It could mean payment gateways, it would mean movie rentals or hopping on the bus, or even just buying a soda from a vending machine. Combined with the inventive spirit of an entirely new market, NFC could become very much a part of our daily lives in just a few short years. All it needed was a little green push.