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NFC testing: 7 common misconceptions

Posted: 09 Dec 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NFC  smartphone  smart devices 

Misconception #5: Sample testing is fine for NFC devices.

Sample testing, especially if parametric in nature, is certainly better than no testing. In situations where test times can be extremely long—for example a final signal-based test that may be used for cellular technologies at the "end of line" for a fully assembled smart device—this may be the most practical method. But to ensure consistent quality and deliver high quality products that consumers and service providers expect, 100 per cent testing of devices in production is the best route. As described in Misconception 4, with the very short test times made possible with an optimised, multi-standard, multi-mode test system, there is little reason not to perform 100 per cent test.

Misconception #5

Misconception #6: The NFC standard used in my market is all I need to implement from a test perspective.

While it's true that certain NFC standards have become dominant in some countries (for example, NFC-F in Japan and NFC-A in Taiwan), the reality is that each "flavour" of NFC brings a different set of capabilities and advantages, so application developers and device manufacturers will design products implementing a variety of NFC standards. Nearly all chipsets used in smart devices today have the capability to operate in numerous modes and virtually all the top smart device manufacturers have international distribution. This means that testing all the standards and modes of NFC is basically a necessity.

Misconception #6

Misconception #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.

The primary purpose of production test is to screen out malfunctioning and marginal devices while monitoring performance changes that may be caused by defective components or manufacturing process drifts. It is critical to carry out RF parametric testing of analogue functionality because it's the only way to provide quantitative quality control in production.

Testing at the protocol level may not be a good use of factory test capacity because software won't change from unit-to-unit. The digital operation of a device is rarely, if ever, affected by changes in manufacturing tolerances. Earlier phases in the manufacturing flow—including ICT (in-circuit test) and verification of software download—have already determined that the digital/software functionality will work as expected, but the analogue performance can vary from unit to unit. Factors affecting assembly and chip defects include ESD damage, bad components, and changes in component tolerances and supply voltages.

Misconcepton #7

Thus, the RF/analogue operation must be measured. By focusing only on NFC's analogue performance, factory throughput is optimised because test time is minimised. Note that this method of "non-signalling" (i.e., physical layer only) test is universally accepted in the test of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies in today's smart devices.

Conclusion

Conclusion

As applications using NFC technology become widely adopted, it is even more important to carry out thorough parametric testing and quality control on the production line to ensure the consistent performance of NFC-enabled devices. Reliable performance is the key for delivering a good user experience and increasing brand loyalty for the device manufacturer. The primary purpose of production testing is to screen out malfunctioning and marginal devices while monitoring performance changes that may be caused by defective components or manufacturing process drifts. Therefore, it is critical to carry out RF parametric testing (as opposed to functional "golden unit" testing), because this is the only way to provide quantitative quality control in production.

- Curtis Schmidek
  EE Times/VP, Marketing
  LitePoint


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