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Could NFC Offer More Than Just "Tap And Go" Applications?

Oct. 14, 2011, 6:25 a.m.
Phil Sealy, Principal Analyst

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Broadcom’s announcement of its BCM2079x family of standalone NFC controllers was announced in September. Broadcom stated that it had developed two controllers – one aimed at the handset market and the other at the consumer electronics market, both of which have the ability to support multiple secure elements. The latter got me thinking about NFC functionality and the possibility of using the technology without the tap and go function.

For consumer electronics the market for secure elements remains limited, with most CE devices with NFC being utilized to pair devices simply and quickly by tapping them together making the CE device a type of tag. So why does Broadcom’s new controller, aimed at the CE industry give the ability to support multiple secure elements?

I think the simple ability to safely house data on a secure element has been overlooked somewhat. For example on an internet ready TV a secure element (probably a type of bridging solution such as an SD card) could store a consumers payment card details. This could enable a consumer to purchase or rent movies from their TV quickly and safely without the need to plug in a keyboard, or use a standard remote control, to manually enter payment card details.

The key in this user scenario is that although the consumer device would utilize NFC technology, it would not use the tap and go function associated with it. Instead it would use NFC to enable a secure element. NFC has some great use cases for a consumer using the tap functionality, whether this is to complete a transaction, collect coupons or loyalty points or to tap a smart poster to collect product information. Of course I am looking at future case uses, thinking about how NFC secure elements can serve a consumer by leveraging the technology for other use cases that do not necessarily require the tapping or pairing of devices.Once NFC matures and becomes established it will be interesting to see what other use cases OEMs and developers can find and how far they are able to take NFC as a technology.