Making P2P Connections Easier: NFC Forum Publishes New Standard

Sep 29 2011

The NFC Forum has published what observers say is a much-needed new specification to standardize the way two NFC phones or other devices exchange messages in peer-to-peer mode.

The standard uses the same data format as standard NFC tags use to send URLs, SMS or other data when tapped by NFC phones. The forum earlier standardized this NFC data exchange format, or NDEF, for tags.

The forum calls the new standard the simple NDEF exchange protocol, or SNEP, which is designed to make it easier for both developers of NFC applications and their users to exchange and transfer data using NFC’s P2P mode. The forum announced the new standard today.

Jonathan Main, chairman of the forum’s technical committee, told NFC Times that, at present, developers use proprietary formats or protocols to get two devices to talk to each other, and there could be problems in translation, especially if the two devices support different operating systems.

“Nokia devices would work with other Nokia devices but may not work with other handset manufacturers’ devices, whereas we (now) have this interoperable method to exchange data.”

The SNEP standard will be part of the NFC Forum’s compliance and certification program for devices, though it is up to phone and other NFC device makers to support the standard or not. NFC technology has three modes of communication, card emulation, tag reading and writing and peer-to-peer.

The NFC Forum, which is both a standards and trade group, gave a couple of examples of how the new standard could simplify P2P communication between NFC devices.

In one, a user’s phone could be configured to automatically send his digital business card when he touches the phone to the NFC handset of a new acquaintance. “The recipient doesn't have to do anything other than to accept the business card and allow it to be entered into his phone book,” said the forum.

Or a consumer walking along the street could tap a movie poster embedded with an NFC tag. When he gets back home, could tap his phone to an NFC-enabled TV remote control to display a movie clip or perhaps Web pages about the film.

“From a user point of view, it essentially means I can read something from a tag and pass it to a phone,” said Main. “Or I can potentially read something from an NFC device and write it (to a tag), without having to be changing formats.”

The standard doesn’t really apply to pairing of devices, in which NFC is used to quickly open a broader data connection, such as Bluetooth or WiFi, between the devices. This can be done with NFC tags in one of the devices or in P2P mode. It would use a connection-handover protocol.

Bridging the Communication Gap
Updated: The new standard is definitely needed, Jeff Malone, a developer for U.S.-based Integrated Computer Solutions, or ICS, told NFC Times. ICS, in the NFC sphere, has developed applications for Nokia mobile phones.

ICS participated in a recent 48-hour “hackathon,” in Boston, bringing together developers to create NFC applications. The firm developed an application to exchange business cards between Nokia NFC phones and Google’s Nexus S.

None of the NFC-enabled devices ICS used for the application: Nokia’s new 600, 700 and 701 phones supporting the Symbian Belle operating system and the handset maker’s MeeGo-based N9 or Google’s Nexus S yet support the new NFC Forum P2P standard.

Without a global standard, Google created its own protocol for direct P2P communication between Android NFC devices for its Android Gingerbread operating system. Google calls it the NDEF push protocol, or NPP. Nokia, on the other hand, uses the NFC Forum’s connection-handover specification for P2P communication. But this calls for a separate technology connection using Bluetooth to actually transfer the data. Google doesn’t support connection handover for P2P.

Because Google’s NPP is faster to transfer small amounts of data, including business cards in the vCard format, Malone said ICS developed a version of Google’s NPP for the Nokia phones along with a P2P application for those phones. This enabled them to exchange the digital business cards with the Google phones.

Malone said Google’s NDEF push protocol is only designed to work on Android phones and would take special development, as ICS did, for it to work on NFC phones running on other platforms, such as Symbian, MeeGo, BlackBerry OS or Windows Phone. Besides, the Google protocol only pushes data, so isn’t a full P2P connection.

“SNEP extends beyond (Google’s) NPP to support more exchange of data–it doesn't just push,” Malone told NFC Times. "It allows one phone to send an NDEF record to the other, and the other to respond that it received it correctly and, in turn, reply with information in an exchange that can go on until the connection is lost.”

It remains to be seen how soon Google upgrades its NDEF push protocol in Android to support the new NFC Forum specifications, Malone said. Nokia has said it will support SNEP, NFC Times has learned.

Other handset makers will also need to support the new NFC Forum standard before users can hope to seamlessly tap their NFC phones in P2P mode regardless of the operating system.

And while there are other issues that could hinder the smooth exchange of data, such as the location of the antennas on various devices, a common data protocol is a necessary first step, observers agree. End update.

Article comments

 
john.chriss Mar 8 2012

I used to own one of these, and saw the potential for it to do more than the default firmmware. Great coverage here Chadrew. I have been looking now at extensions/alternatives on my NAS box - similar kind of area. die cut sticker

Please register or login to post a comment.

HEADLINE NEWS

In-Depth: Government Regulation of Mobility-as-a-Service Seen as Necessary to Encourage Widespread Adoption

Apr 16 2020

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Government legislation will likely be needed for widespread adoption of Mobility-as-a-Service, or MaaS, to occur, according to UK-based Juniper Research, which believes that the regulations will be necessary to force MaaS providers, including transit service providers, to work together, as well as to persuade users to get out of their cars to cut carbon emissions.

Apple Pay Expands Support for Interoperable Closed-Loop Transit Cards in China, Though Not First NFC Pays Wallet to Do So

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Apple on Wednesday expanded support for closed-loop transit payments across China, incorporating China’s T-Union interoperable transit cards in its Apple Pay service.

Insight: Virus Adds Urgency to Increasing Contactless Limits but Won’t Necessarily Drive Growth in Acceptance

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – While the Covid-19 virus outbreak is building awareness for contactless and NFC payments and is accelerating the increase in already low contactless transaction limits in Europe, it remains to be seen how much it will convince more merchants to accept contactless in the U.S.

Exclusive: After 10 Months, Sales of Public Transit Tickets in Uber App Still Make Up Small Share of Mobile Ticketing in Denver

Mar 24 2020

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Since last May, when ride-hailing service Uber officially began enabling customers to book and pay for public transit tickets in Denver directly in the Uber app, use of the service remains relatively low, accounting for less than 3% of all mobile tickets purchased by customers of Denver public transit agency RTD, NFC Times has learned.

Former Garmin Pay Technology Providers Sue Device Maker Claiming Unpaid Millions, Though Offer Scant Proof of Claims

NFC TIMES Exclusive –  The founders of former payments wearables provisioning company Fit Pay, which was acquired last September for $3.3 million by smartwatch and fitness band maker Garmin, have sued the device maker and two other parties, claiming they are owed millions in missed earn-out payments.

Helsinki to Roll Out Multimodal Contactless EMV Fare Payments, with Plans for Daily and Weekly Fare Capping

Mar 12 2020

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority plans to accept contactless EMV payments on its multimodal system, including its buses, metro, trams and ferries. The rollout, expected to be completed in 2023, will also support daily and weekly fare capping.  

Transport for London’s Lucrative Sponsorship Deal with Google Shows Value of ‘Point of Sale’ Real Estate at Fare Gates

NFC TIMES Exclusive insight – Transport for London’s recent deal with Google to put the Google Pay Logo on more than 5,600 contactless gate readers across the large London Underground network is not the first time that the London transit authority has rented out its prime payments real estate to sponsors. Nor is it the only transit agency that has profited from sponsorship deals tied to its contactless EMV transit payments services. 

Amazon Launches Largest Checkout-Free Store; Clerks and POS Terminal Vendors Need Not Worry…Yet

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Ecommerce giant Amazon expanded its no-checkout concept to its first “full-sized” supermarket Tuesday, in its headquarters city of Seattle, enabling shoppers to scan an app upon entering, pull products off of shelves and “just walk out,” with hundreds of cameras and numerous sensors having recorded everywhere the shoppers went in the store and everything they put into their shopping carts. A card on file in the app is charged as the customers leave.

Czech Banks See Growing Use of NFC Wallets with Smartphones and Wearables for Contactless Payments

Feb 18 2020

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Banks in the Czech Republic say they are seeing significant and growing use of NFC-enabled smartphones and wearables, ranging from 6% to nearly 25% of all contactless payments–three banks told NFC Times–although a large majority of consumers continue to tap their contactless cards, not NFC devices, for in-store payments.

Brussels Transit Operator Sees Need for Global Interoperability of Fare Payments; Compares Benefits to Mobile Roaming

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The head of information systems for a major European transit operator says he believes public transit agencies should support interoperable fare payments globally, like mobile network operators offer roaming when their customers travel abroad.

Oyster Card Here to Stay Despite Strong Growth of Contactless Fare Payments in London

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – As more and more transit authorities globally seek to emulate Transport for London’s success in gaining widespread adoption for contactless open-loop fare payments, they should take note that London’s closed-loop Oyster card remains popular, even among visitors to the city.

In-Depth: Tokenization Figures Demonstrate Majority of Mobile Payments Conducted Online

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight –  Recent research and forecasts have confirmed what industry observers already knew: Despite concerted efforts by the Pays wallets to gain widespread use of mobile payments in the U.S. at the physical point of sale, the large majority of mobile payments are conducted online, not by tapping NFC phones or wearables in stores.