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Inside Secure bids for share of Android NFC chip market

NFC and contactless chip specialist Inside Secure has begun the task of trying to convince the industry that NXP is not the only game in town when it comes to adding NFC functionality to Android mobile phones with the launch of version 4.2 of its open source NFC protocol stack.

Open NFC

OPEN NFC: Hardware abstraction layer allows the stack to be easily adapted to new NFC controllers

Inside Secure has brought out a new version of its Open NFC protocol stack, first introduced in April 2010, and is making the case for its solution to be considered as the only truly hardware independent option for manufacturers looking to offer NFC Android devices.

Rival NFC chip supplier NXP scored a major coup in December 2010 when it was able to announce that its PN544 NFC controller chip is being used in the first NFC Android phone, the Google Nexus S, and that it had a strategic collaboration in place with Google for the development of NFC Android technology.

NXP was keen to point out at the time that handset makers would still be able to choose NFC controller chips from other manufacturers and that the deal meant they would not be tied to NXP as their only supplier.

But, says Inside’s Philippe Martineau, the current Gingerbread NFC stack developed by NXP embeds code that is dedicated to specific hardware throughout the stack and is not confined to a thin hardware-specific layer. This means, he explains, that a substantial portion of the stack would have to be rewritten in order to adapt it to a different NFC controller or combo connectivity chip — unlike Inside’s own solution which, he says, has a separate hardware abstraction software layer so that it can be adapted to new hardware more simply.

“Open NFC version 4.2 for Google Android 2.3 simplifies interoperability and provides the NFC ecosystem with a consistent NFC application programming interface (API) and functionality, offering chip vendors, smartphone manufacturers, wireless carriers and software developers a way to implement NFC independently of the underlying NFC hardware as Gingerbread is adopted for use in a broad range of mobile products around the world,” says the company.

“Open NFC relies on a separate, very thin and easily adaptable hardware abstraction software layer, which accounts for a very small percentage of the total stack code, meaning that the Open NFC software stack can be easily leveraged for different NFC chip hardware,” explains Martineau. “This has tremendous cost, time-to-market and flexibility advantages for NFC chip vendors, smartphone manufacturers and software developers who would otherwise have to contend with rewriting the hardware-specific elements of the Gingerbread NFC protocol stack.”

Open NFC 4.2 for Android 2.3 will be available for download from the Open NFC website by the end of February under an Apache 2.0 license.

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