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NXP Semiconductors

NFC is Ready for Industry and IoT

Articles | By NXP Semiconductors | 22 May 2017
Intelligently timed relays, device-to-device communication, failure diagnosis, and more. Intelligently timed relays, device-to-device communication, failure diagnosis, and more.

Intelligently timed relays, device-to-device communication, failure diagnosis, and more - NFC enables various use cases in industry, logistics and maintenance. As one of the pioneers behind the technology‘s development and standardization, semiconductor manufacturer NXP is driving forward the adoption of NFC technology beyond the realm of the Consumer IoT.

Richard Schmidmaier, Senior Marketing Manager, NXP Semiconductors, in an interview with “RFID & Wireless IoT Global”

Flexible configuration settings for industrial use

“All industrial devices which rely on parameters to function can be equipped and controlled with NFC. The main advantage of NFC controlling the device, when compared to a typical physical rotary or 10-bit DIP switch, lies in its fl exibility: with NFC, the user can configure the device via an app which enables complex parameter combinations. Instead of having to install lights or a small screen on the device itself, the larger screen and ease of use of smartphones or tablets can be leveraged. In addition, the app can include links, user manuals, and more,” Richard Schmidmaier, Senior Marketing Manager at NXP, outlines the benefits of integrating NFC into industrial devices.

Flexibly timed NFC relay with 28 timer programs

Schneider Electric has developed one of the fi rst market-available product leveraging NXP‘s NFC chips as a parametrisation interface. Schmidmaier emphasises: “With NFC, the Zelio Time automation relay can be controlled more fl exibly and more precisely than with mechanical parametrisation. The app off ers 28 diff erent timer programs, which can be seamlessly configured with a precision of up to 10 milliseconds – 50 times more exact than mechanical elements. Using NFC in industry applications saves time and costs. Instead of needing to stock a broad portfolio of specialised relays, Schneider Electric can off er customers a single flexible device which can be freely configured to their exact specifi cations.”

Richard SchmidmaierR. Schmidmaier “All industrial devices which rely on parameters to function can be equipped and controlled with NFC. The main advantage of NFC controlling the device lies in its flexibility: with NFC, the user can configure the device via an app which enables complex parameter combinations.”

Open knowledge base for NFC users

This functionality is enabled by a passive connected tag - an EEPROM with both an NFC and an I²C interface. For Schneider Electric and other users looking to integrate NFC into their machines, NXP off ers hardware and software support. “NXP is opening its knowledge base to NFC users. For our latest connected tag, the NTAG I²C plus, we off er example source codes for mobile phone apps and for the embedded device fi rmware. We also provide antenna designs which can then be integrated into the casing of the equipment itself. This way, NXP customers can concentrate on implementing and integrating their new solutions,” Schmidmaier explains.

Diagnosis, tamper protection, and proof of presence

In addition to controlling industrial equipment, NFC can also add value through error diagnosis, Schmidmaier underlines: “The NFC chip adds two kilobytes of independent, passive memory to any device. This makes it ideally suited for diagnosis purposes. Even if the device has stopped working, is disconnected or cannot be turned on, the NFC chip can still be read. If performance or parameter data is added to the NFC memory, it can function as a passive error-protocol.”

Parts of the memory can also be secured by a 32-bit password. This enables the regulation of access at the device or application level: “In Schneider Electric‘s case, a four-digit PIN has to be entered before changing the device parameters, adding an additional security layer. With mechanical parametrisation, whoever has physical access to the device can change its configuration. With NFC, manual tampering can be made virtually impossible.”

Device-to-device communication via NFC

“Because the signal permeates plastic casings, NFC technology is well suited for contactless device-to-device communication at high protection classes. Only one side of the system has to be active and powered. This enables applications which other technologies cannot off er: For example, NFC can connect spinning sensors within the device or establish communication between two devices in galvanic isolation. At up to 40 kilobits per second, NFC can establish a continuous exchange of sensor and process data. NFC has the potential to be a key enabler for the industrial IoT,” Richard Schmidmaier states.

“NFC‘s standardised short range of ten centimetres confers both advantages and disadvantages. In industrial environments, NFC communication is almost impossible to listen into remotely and reduces false tag readings. Using NFC means that device configuration has to be changed on-site through a secured contactless technology. This establishes proof of presence for regularly scheduled maintenance or inspections. All in all, NFC off ers a sizeable potential for industrial applications, in addition to the well-known consumer IoT uses.”

Added value for sports, leisure, and toys due to NFC

“Traditionally, NFC has been associated with consumer applications, especially contactless payment. The parametrisation and diagnosis abilities of NFC technology coming to the forefront in industry applications have created added value for sports, leisure and entertainment as well. Integrating a passive NFC chip costs around 0.30 Euros today and enables the use of the smartphone as a user interface,” Schmidmaier explains. “For example, Sigma Sport outfits their bike computers with NFC, which allows the configuration of the reading parameters and the downloading of trip data to the phone. At a comparatively low cost, any NFC-equipped device becomes part of the IoT.”

Last modified on Monday, 22 May 2017 13:28
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