The Need for NFC Standards

By Robert R. Sabella

It isn’t possible to create a technology that everyone can use without also creating standards to govern that technology. Standards are simply rules that everyone agrees to abide by to ensure that everyone’s products can interact. A standard contains a precise set of rules so that less doubt exists about how to implement them.

For example, a standard might define precisely which frequency a device should use when communicating or determine how much power the device should generate to ensure that the signal is neither too weak nor too strong.

In addition, standards rely on committees to create them and groups to certify them. The use of committees ensures that everyone’s ideas appear as part of the standard when those ideas make sense to the remaining committee members. A small company might have some great ideas that will turn the technology from a dud into something everyone wants to use. Having a committee set up increases the chance that the ideas from the small company will actually appear as part of the standard.

Groups ensure that standards follow similar formatting and go through a similar certification process. In the case of Near Field Communication (NFC), the main standards group is the NFC Forum. The NFC Forum built its specifications on top of the NFC standards produced by the ISO/IEC, which often work together to create, promote, certify, and manage standards.

For the purposes of this book, the NFC Forum is the overarching authority on specifications. It classifies NFC tags as types 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, which incorporate the standards defined by the ISO and IEC. These tag types also follow NFC Forum compliance for tag types A, B, F, and V.

It’s important to understand that standards control only issues that matter to the technology, not elements that a vendor could use to individualize a particular technology experience. For example, the standards for NFC don’t dictate that NFC-enabled devices must be a certain size or use a specific case color. By focusing on just the important parts of the technology, standards allow vendors to innovate and create better products. Some of these innovations end up in updated versions of the standard, so everyone benefits.