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NFC testing: 7 common misconceptions

Posted: 09 Dec 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NFC  smartphone  smart devices 

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology will soon become a mission-critical enabling technology in the devices and services we use on a daily basis. NFC has already proliferated into public transit systems, letting millions of travellers rapidly gain access to subways, buses, ferries and planes.

It's being adopted to help authorise billions of dollars in financial transactions in ways that provide far greater levels of security than conventional credit cards. It's also being deployed to simplify how we enable our wireless devices to connect and interact with each other through simplified pairing techniques (sometimes referred to as "bootstrapping"). It will offer new means to streamline and protect our healthcare services through improved identity methods for patients and medications. And NFC offers new ways for advertisers to reach consumers though "smart posters" and tagged consumer items.

NFC capabilities can be found in literally hundreds of millions of smartphones, but you may be surprised to know that the method employed to test the NFC functionality in these devices is very primitive, relative to how other wireless technologies in smart devices are tested. Because the practical applications for NFC-enabled smart devices is only now beginning to take root, it will be critical to ensure the necessary NFC performance to guarantee a high-quality, consistent and reliable user experience. While only about 30 per cent of smartphones employed NFC technology in 2013, that number is expected to grow to 70 per cent by 2018—in other words, well over 1 billion NFC-enabled smart devices.

The following misconceptions are commonly held when it comes to NFC testing.

  • Misconception No. 1: NFC is similar to other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Misconception No. 2: NFC is a low-cost, simple radio. There is no reason to test it.
  • Misconception No. 3: Pass/Fail testing using a "Golden Unit" is all you need for NFC. Anything more is overkill and too complicated to implement in manufacturing.
  • Misconception No. 4: Pass/Fail with a Golden Unit is the shortest way to test; anything other than pass/fail would decrease my factory throughput.
  • Misconception No. 5: Sample testing is fine for NFC devices.
  • Misconception No. 6: The NFC standard used in my market is all I need to implement from a test perspective.
  • Misconception No. 7: I have decided to test. Now I need to ensure both the NFC digital protocol is working for each unit, as well as the analogue.
  • Misconception #1: NFC is similar to other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

    There are numerous differences between NFC and other short-range wireless communications standards, such as Wi-Fi and BT (Bluetooth). The profound differences between NFC and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth are due to each having very distinct use models and applications.

    BT and Wi-Fi are intended for sustained high-speed data connections between devices such as PCs, access points, headsets, keyboards, smart phones/tablets, etc. Data rates are much higher with BT and Wi-Fi than with NFC, but NFC was not intended for continuous data transfers. Instead, NFC was created to enable short bursts of data over very short distances.

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