NFC Standard ISO/IEC 14443

By Robert R. Sabella

The Near Field Communication (NFC) ISO/IEC 14443 standard defines the requirements for proximity cards commonly used for identification purposes. The ISO/IEC differentiates these cards from close-coupled cards (ISO/IEC 10536), which provide extremely close distances with the coupling device, and vicinity cards (ISO/IEC 15693), which provide longer distances from the associated coupling device. The standard appears in four parts, as presented in the following list:

  • ISO/IEC 14443-1:2008 Part 1: Physical characteristics: Specifies how the cards are put together physically. The standard discusses two types of cards: identification cards conforming to ISO/IEC 7810, and thin, flexible cards conforming to ISO/IEC 15457-1. However, the standard also recognizes that the technology could appear in other forms.
  • ISO/IEC 14443-2:2010 Part 2: Radio frequency power and signal interface: Determines the characteristics of the fields used to provide power and bidirectional communication between proximity coupling devices (PCDs) and proximity cards or objects (PICCs). This specification doesn’t determine the means used to generate the field. Type A, B, and FeliCa cards use different modulation methods and coding schemes.
  • ISO/IEC 14443-3:2011 Part 3: Initialization and anticollision: Defines how the communication process begins, proceeds, and ends. For example, this part of the standard describes how a device polls (looks for) potential connection and then initiates a command to start communications. Type A, B, and FeliCa cards use different protocol initialization procedures.

Even though Parts 3 and 4 of the standard tells you how communications work, the techniques used have patent protection. To use the technology, you must negotiate a license with the patent holder. When you buy a product, the vendor who produced the product has already procured a license to use the technology, so this requirement isn’t a concern unless you’re creating a new product that relies on the technology. (When in doubt, ask a lawyer!)

  • ISO/IEC 14443-4:2008 Part 4: Transmission protocol: Defines a messaging protocol to be used for communicating with proximity cards. For example, this part describes the format of a message that would be used to read data from or write data to a card. The same messaging protocol applies to both Type A and B cards. FeliCa uses a different protocol defined in the JIS 6319-4 standard.

The ISO/IEC requires that you purchase copies of the standards. However, you find that you can preview the standards by clicking the Preview button and then obtaining some standard details from the preview.