Inside Secure to Promote New Type of Tags for Use with NFC Phones

Jan 6 2011

NFC chip supplier Inside Secure has announced support for a new category of low-cost but nonstandard RFID tags that it said could be used in place of standard tags to send data to NFC phones.

The tags, called "RF barcodes" by their maker, Silicon Valley-based Kovio, could be attached as "smart labels" to product packages and to smart posters in stores to enable consumers to receive product details, promotional offers, coupons, loyalty points and nutritional information by tapping their NFC phones on the tags. In-store mobile promotions are among the most anticipated uses for NFC tags.

The Kovio tags are not actual bar codes, but printed integrated circuits that send data using the ISO/IEC 14443 standard frequency, 13.56 MHz, according to Kovio. It is targeting the market for bar codes on product packages and also low-cost transit fare and entertainment venue tickets. The tags are also used for inventory tracking. At volume production, the company said the tags could be produced at 5 U.S. cents or less apiece, which would be significantly lower than standard NFC tags.

"They can be manufactured with very short lead times–this is the key difference in the silicon ink versus silicon foundry techniques," Charles Walton, chief operating officer for France-based Inside Secure, formerly Inside Contactless, told NFC Times. "They’ve (Kovio) commercialized very quickly and at a very low cost, these devices. They are a very reliable, very elegant, cheap simple solution."

Both the Kovio tags and standard NFC tags could store small amounts of data, such as URLs or SMS codes that could open mobile Internet connections on NFC phones, enabling consumers, for example, to access product information or coupons.

Update: Kovio's vice president of business development, Vik Pavate, said consumer product companies will not put conventional RFID tags on millions of different types of products because the tags are too expensive–he contends they are stuck at a 10- to 15-cent price point apiece.

"The conventional silicon platform is not capable of getting to where we are now," Pavate told NFC Times"In the context of brand promotion, it’s like a Ferrari–very expensive. No brand company will make an investment at the price of conventional silicon. They’ve (silicon manufacturers) been talking about getting down to 5 cents for years." 

Without affordability, there will be no widespread tagging of products in stores. And that would greatly reduce the marketing and advertising reach of product makers and merchants, as they try to interact with consumers on NFC phones, he said, adding that Kovio's goal is to reduce the price of its tags to a penny apiece in a few years. End update.

Nonstandard Technology
But while the Kovio tags support the standard contactless radio frequency, they are proprietary and do not comply with any of the four tag types standardized by the NFC Forum.

Walton acknowledged it would require what he termed "slight modifications" to Inside’s MicroRead and SecuRead NFC chips to read the Kovio tags.

For NFC phones using other NFC chip makers’ products to read the Kovio tags, those chip makers would also have to make modifications, after concluding agreements with Kovio.

Inside points out its NFC chips are able to read standard NFC tag types as well, but its promotion of nonstandard tags is unlikely to sit well with the NFC Forum, a standardization and trade association. While the forum’s four standard tag types are manufactured or licensed by private companies, Broadcom, NXP Semiconductors and Sony, their inclusion in the standard means that NFC Forum-certified phones should be able to read them without modification to the NFC phone chips. 

"Standards make life easier to create growth in the market much faster," Jeff Miles, director of mobile transactions for NXP, told NFC Times, when told of the Inside announcement.

Kovio is itself a member of the NFC Forum, and Inside hopes the company's tags one day will become part of the standard. That is possible, though it would create a fifth tag type.

Update: When asked by NFC Times whether it viewed a possible rollout of nonstandard Kovio tags a potential problem, and if it would consider standardizing the technology, NFC Forum Chairman Koichi Tagawa responded only that the forum is a "member-driven organization," and as such, "we have a process in place for members to propose new technologies for the forum’s consideration." End update.

The Kovio tags are on display this week at the International Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Kovio's Pavate said the company has raised $85 million in venture capital.

Tom Zind contributed to this article.

HEADLINE NEWS

Small Australian Bank Says It Sees HCE as Offering ‘Wider Reach’ Than Other Technologies

Apr 8 2015

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Australia’s AMP Bank said it chose to launch mobile-payments with host-card emulation over other NFC technologies because of the “wider reach” the technology offers, since it’s “available to all NFC-enabled Android mobile phones running KitKat or later,” the bank’s director digital, Michael Weeding, told NFC Times.

New Zealand Joint Venture Launches SIM-Based NFC Wallet Amid Growing Interest in HCE

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – New Zealand joint venture Semble has launched its SIM-based NFC mobile wallet, after delays and the decision by of two of the country’s big four banks to launch mobile payments from their own apps using host-card emulation.

Vodafone Seeks to Revamp Wallet with Tokenization and Apple Pay Technology Model

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Vodafone Group is relaunching its NFC-based Vodafone Wallet with tokenized payment applications, as it seeks to attract more users and issuers to the mobile wallet.

Under Threat, Mainstream TSMs Rebrand as ‘Credential Managers,’ Embracing Tokenization and Accepting HCE

NFC Times Exclusive – Is the TSM, as we know it, dying? Predictably, the three major global trusted service managers say no.

UPDATED: OTI Gets Favorable Ruling in NFC Patent Infringement Case; Reports Continued Losses for 2014

Mar 31 2015

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – A U.S. district court judge has ruled that T-Mobile USA infringed an NFC patent held by Israel-based On Track Innovations.

Second Kiwi Bank Snubs SIMs for HCE with ANZ’s Planned NFC Launch; Bell ID Gets Nod as Vendor

Mar 31 2015

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Another major New Zealand bank has announced plans to launch NFC payments with host-card emulation, snubbing a joint venture set up to launch SIM-based NFC on the island nation.

Microsoft Jumps on HCE Bandwagon Though Meager Windows Market Share for Smartphones Mutes Impact

Mar 26 2015

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Windows 10 for phones, set to be released later this year, will support host card emulation, or HCE, based NFC payments, Microsoft revealed at a recent Windows event in China.

G&D Supplies HCE Technology for Commonwealth Bank HCE Service

Mar 25 2015

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Germany-based Giesecke & Devrient confirmed it is providing the host-card emulation technology for Commonwealth Bank’s commercial HCE launch this month of Tap & Pay from the bank’s Android-based mobile-banking app.

Identiv Plays Up IoT Tag Business, but Losses Continued in 2014

Identiv CEO Jason Hart sounded optimistic tones about the company’s NFC tag business, particularly in “Internet of Things” applications or tags for consumer goods, during a conference call last week to discuss Identiv’s fourth quarter and full year 2014 earnings, but investors responded with less optimism.

Gemalto Claims 25% of U.S. EMV Market; Seeks to Take Spotlight Off SIM

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – France-based Gemalto, which is keen to take the spotlight off its SIM business, projects EMV cards to represent perhaps the largest expected source of revenue growth in the coming year.

Square Acquires Payment Processing Tech Vendor Kili; May be Planning NFC mPOS, but Will it Keep DeviceFidelity?

Mar 13 2015

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – UPDATED: Mobile point-of-sale device supplier Square has acquired payment processing component vendor Kili Technology, the same vendor that purchased NFC accessory vendor DeviceFidelity in November, but Square does not plan to keep DeviceFidelity, a source connected with Square told NFC Times.

Samsung Pay Unpacked: Details on Samsung’s Planned Business Model, Architecture and Unannounced Banks Revealed

NFC Times Exclusive – NFC Times has learned new details about how Samsung intends to make money from its planned payments service, Samsung Pay; as well as the technology architecture the OEM will use and the identity of two unannounced banks, along with a new category of issuer that is planning to participate.