Intel Signals Growing Interest in NFC Technology
U.S. based Intel, the world’s largest chip maker by revenue, has raised its membership level in the NFC Forum to take a seat on the board, signaling its growing interest in NFC technology.
Intel, which last month announced it would be working with MasterCard Worldwide to build NFC technology into the planned Intel-backed line of laptop computers called Ultrabooks, is expected to tap NFC technology to enable secure communication between devices, among other possible uses.
“Intel believes NFC has great potential to enhance user experiences via simplified and secure device interaction,” said Ed Agis, Intel’s representative and new board member of the NFC Forum.
While the giant chip maker has long been dominant in the PC market, Intel has been gearing up to make a move into the smartphone and tablet markets. Intel also supplies chips for servers, industrial and medical equipment and car entertainment systems. It's not clear yet what role NFC might play for Intel in these markets.
Intel is not expected to produce its own NFC chips and is likely to partner with an NFC chip maker to get the technology it needs to support NFC functionality in its chips.
The chip maker in March had raised its membership level in the forum, a standards and trade group, from associate to principal, which gave it the right to appoint voting representatives to the forum’s technical, marketing and compliance committees and working groups. Principal members also can seek certification under the forum’s compliance specifications using in-house labs.
By becoming a sponsor member and paying the $50,000 per year dues, Intel gets a seat on the board, joining forum co-founders NXP Semiconductors, Sony and Nokia, as well as Broadcom, Inside Secure, MasterCard, Microsoft, Renesas Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Visa Inc., Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo and most recently, Barclaycard, which is part of UK-based Barclays bank.
The multiyear collaboration with MasterCard is intended to build NFC technology, including contactless or NFC readers, into a new category of slim, light laptops packing Intel chips, which Intel calls Ultrabooks. These are similar to MacBook Air laptops from Apple. Other Intel-powered PCs and devices supporting online payment would follow.
The readers combined with Intel’s Identity Protection Technology would enable consumers to tap phones, cards and stickers that carry MasterCard’s PayPass application to make purchases on Web sites that support the protection technology.
The first Ultrabooks from PC makers are expected before the end of this year, but Intel plans for the laptops to accept payments from devices storing PayPass next year, Intel’s George Thangadurai, general manager of PC client services division, told NFC Times last month.
MasterCard’s chief emerging payments officer Ed McLaughlin told NFC Times at the time that MasterCard and Intel could later work together to support payment on a range of other devices, including larger PCs, smartphones, tablets, intelligent TVs, game consoles and TV set-top boxes. Devices packing Intel chips will be able to eventually accept payments from other contactless brands, as well.
Intel has not revealed its other plans for NFC.
In September, Intel and Google announced they were working to optimize future versions of Google’s Android operating system for Intel chips. ARM processors now dominate the smartphone market. Intel is also hoping to get its chips into future Windows Phone devices. Google supports NFC in Android and Microsoft plans to support the technology in future versions of Windows Phone.
In addition to Intel, the NFC Forum today also announced four new associate members: Chinese handset and electronics company Huawei Technologies; Canadian debit payment association Interac; Finland-based Polar Electro, a maker of fitness monitoring equipment; and Asian testing lab Allion.
Five companies also joined the forum at the implementer level, along with one nonprofit organization.